June 18th, 2024

A time of transition has come for the newsroom

By Lethbridge Herald on February 4, 2023.

Al Beeber

Here we are already, the start of February. With the perpetual darkness we’ve lived through since autumn, the light is nearing the end of the tunnel.

Sunset is occurring later in the day and soon our mornings should be lighter a little earlier, too. December and January have to be two of the toughest months in a year to get through with sanity reasonably intact.

In December, momentum – and perhaps disappointment – is building up for the Christmas season and in January, the seasonal high quickly fades away. But that darkness only begins to lift afterwards. Longer and warmer days are ahead of us which should make life a bit easier to bear.

Last month was a strange one. Between the unseasonal – yet welcome – temperatures for a few days, the heavy fog that beset us and all the ice, it was a January unlike any other I remember. These extreme temperature changes are a sign, we’re told, of the impact of climate change and I’m inclined to believe it.

While we’ve always had chinooks in Southern Alberta since I remember, we didn’t have the sudden fluctuations. Since when do we get ground-hugging fog in January?

That’s a new one on me.

Now a new month is dawning and with it new challenges. Starting on Monday, I’m assuming the role of managing editor of the Lethbridge Herald, hopefully for the rest of my career. 

The opportunity arose recently and I accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading this newsroom forward.

A lot has changed in the 35 years I’ve been at the Herald, too much to mention here. What has remained constant is the need for this newspaper to thoroughly and fairly cover this community. With our present personnel resources in the newsroom, I think we’re doing a good job but we can always do better.

So I’ve been talking to company management about my vision for the newsroom and what I hope to accomplish. Given the staff we have, we need to make optimum use of resources. While we can’t cover everything that goes on we can find ways to cover more which is a big focus going forward. We have a talented, dedicated crew here who have proven they can get the job done and done well.

Moving forward we’ll be looking at how we cover some beats, including court. And I’m looking forward to hearing from readers what interests you when you read The Herald. I’m trying to figure out what would entice more readers and advertisers.

What interests you as residents of this community? Send me your thoughts to abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

We are a city of more than 100,000 and our coverage needs to reflect this growing and diverse community. 

I fully intend to continue handling the Comment page of the paper, training someone to do it when I’m on vacation – which won’t be often this year – and when I’m having my cataract surgeries done.

How to handle council coverage is a matter I’m mulling over. For now, I’ll be following it from my desk at the office. My plan ideally is to train someone to follow full meetings of council while I follow the SPC meetings, which I can easily do remotely.

By doing the advance work on the issues facing council, I will be providing my chosen successor as council reporter the background information to easily get up to speed when mayor and council make decisions on the matters than come before them  twice a month.

This will allow me to spread out my newsroom resources and have someone available Wednesdays and Thursdays to cover other important matters.

I’m also looking at re-envisioning other content of the paper. One thing I’ve heard often over the years is that readers miss a Homes section. I’ve suggested to management we incorporate a Homes page into the paper every week. Renovation ideas and gardening subjects, I think, would interest readers given the continued growth of this city.

I’m also interested in hearing what people think of the content we run on Page A7  – the community calendar page. Do you read Dr. Gifford-Jones, the health columns or any of the other elements we run weekly? Would you rather see different content on this page? I’d like to gauge your opinion.

And when it comes to sports, I’d like to know what you think is lacking. Do we need more advance stories, more high school coverage? Please let me know. 

This is a time of transition for the newsroom and I know transition can be intimidating and unwelcome. We’ve seen a number of city and managing editors here in my career here – at least a total of 13 by my count.

We’ve been blessed with having some great leaders over the years and now I’m walking in their footsteps in a newspaper that’s been part of my life since I was born when I was partially named after a Herald carrier in Warner where my dad worked for Calgary Power briefly in the 1950s. My earliest and extremely vague memories of life are in Warner, playing with a couple of little kids and having backyard barbecues with my parents and their friends before dad was transferred to Westlock.

The Herald came back into my family’s life in 1965 when we moved down to Cardston.

 In Raymond, my closest friends all delivered the Herald and I would help them out just for something to do, carrying the monster Saturday editions while trudging through snow in winter or on bicycles in summer. This was both a character building exercise as well as a bodybuilding one.

And now all these years later, I’m carrying a different weight – the weight of doing my part to ensure this paper remains an important part of our community.

 And I will be utilizing newsroom staff the best I can to ensure we give people a reason to continue subscribing and potential readers a reason to start. I’m truly honoured to have this opportunity and I’m looking forward to working with Herald staff, management and the community to grow this newspaper.

One way we will be starting is to establish a stronger social media presence on a daily basis. We will be giving the public an idea of what stories to look for in upcoming editions, we’ll be informing people on Twitter and Facebook of information on a timely basis that they need to know about – traffic accidents that are causing delays, for instance. Reporters will be tweeting what they are covering on a daily basis to attract buyers to the paper to read their stories.

We need to remind audiences on social media, to paraphrase the words of Simple Minds, that we’re “alive and kicking.”

This is your paper and we need to be responsive. Given how we regularly hear from the left and right that we need to stop giving either side so much coverage, I think we’ve found a good balance politically.

But there are many stories to be done. How are businesses and homeowners being impacted by crime here? We’d like to hear – I realize some may fear pushback if they speak out – but voices of victims need to be heard.

What do people think of the return of a supervised consumption site which I’m hearing from sources is possible depending on who wins the provincial election? We need to write about all aspects of the subject so the community can develop an informed opinion about this polarizing issue. Providing balanced, in-depth information will help that process.

 It’s not our job to tell the public what that opinion should be.

One type of story I’m looking at having reporters do is a follow-up on budget deliberations, specifically how money being allotted to organizations will help them serve the community in the next four years. These are important stories so the public knows how well – or not – their tax increases  are being utilized for the next four years.

There are so many stories we can cover here and I’m looking forward to giving you an opportunity to read them.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.


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