Things are changing this year. For the better.
In my 2021 send off column, I wrote about the strength and resiliency of our newsroom staff, and the Poconos community after what proved to be yet another tumultuous year.
2022 has just begun, but we know our corner of the world has changed. Monroe and other Pocono counties have seen population increases and shifting demographics I haven’t seen locally since the late 90s. Remote work and social media has made our world smaller. We can connect with people around the world from the palm of our hands.
On top of that, we are looking at another big year for elections in Pennsylvania. Not only do we have a local candidate in the running for governor, we also have a potential reimagining of our congressional districts that could impact Monroe County for years to come.
Love them, or hate them, the topic of politics is essential to our readers, and it’s important that we as a news organization deliver in responsible, ethical and accessible ways.
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With that premise in mind, I wanted to take some time to let readers know how and why we are going to further shift focus on our opinion pages to content that will foster kitchen table conversation. And explain why we will publish opinion content on fewer days.
A few weeks ago, I had an email exchange with reader Phil Cohen from East Stroudsburg. Cohen is a longtime reader and letter writer. The topic was in regards to a column on truck driver versus teacher salary. After a volley of emails (and polite debate) we came to the conclusion that salaries for certain positions are not one size fits all, and neither are opinion pages. And that conversation was in line with what we were already planning for the new year.
My goals for our opinion pages at the Pocono Record present a recommitment to the standard of publishing content that is rooted in fact, and truths we believe to be “self-evident.”
Our baseline for editing, writing and curation of these pages includes the following standards:
You have already shown us your support for our bold and enterprising journalism. To continue that standard, we need to create time and space for our team to do the most meaningful work they can.
That’s the only reason for cutting back opinion pages to Fridays and Sundays. There’s nothing else to read into this decision. These changes start Monday, January 10.
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Fridays: Opinion content from our Stroudsburg newsroom, local contributors and guest columnists, as well as voices from throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.
Sundays: A two-page section that spotlights local opinions, including letters to the editor, and other submissions. Group Editorials will be front and center on the local page, and will be known under a new name: Town Square.
The Sunday opinion section will continue to include a “View From Harrisburg” page, bringing attention to the issues that face our commonwealth. This page will continue to be curated and planned out by Viewpoints Director John Anastasi, who is based in Bucks County. He will continue to work with Lisa Thompson Sayers, who is based in Erie.
We expect that you will see far fewer syndicated and national pieces. This paring down will allow for me to directly interact with your letters and Town Square responses by way of more frequent columns. You deserve that, and frankly, I’ve been enjoying the rapport.
Anastasi and Thompson Sayers also will be integral in bringing local and statewide candidates to the table so readers can hear from them ahead of the election. That could be live or taped interviews, guest columns and perhaps even podcasts. We will endeavor to reach as many audiences in as many ways as we can in such an important political year.
Anastasi and Thompson Sayers also will write more analytical pieces, breaking down local and statewide issues, not necessarily with their opinions but with an eye of helping readers understand where multiple sides might be coming from on a particular issue or topic. When the topics are important enough, they easily could lead our websites and print front pages.
I understand that many print readers will lament this decision. A great deal of thought was put into it by our network editors, which include our state editorial board as well as our Regional Executive Editor Shane Fitzgerald. We believe this is the best course to improve the strong local journalism readers rightly demand for their subscription dollars.
Ashley Fontones is the Managing Editor at Pocono Record. Reach her at [email protected]
Things are changing this year. For the better.