Start the Presses: Board feedback and the future

A bit less than a month ago, about two dozen people squeezed into a conference room at the Glendale YWCA, all there to share their feelings about the Glendale News-Press.

The Wednesday evening meeting marked the inaugural of the paper’s Community Advisory Board, something I hope to make a tradition for both the News-Press and the Burbank Leader. (As I write this, I am finalizing the time, date and venue for the Leader’s community board, tentatively slated for later this month.)

The purpose is simple: In order to serve its communities, the paper and its editor need to know what readers care about and couldn’t care less about; what they like about our coverage and what makes them cringe, blanch or yawn.

I was a bit nervous. The problem with asking people to tell you what they think really has drawbacks. Namely, that they might tell you what they really think.

Fortunately, all members of the group — a wide swath of people from the education, nonprofit, government and business worlds as well as involved residents — were exceedingly polite and helpful. They were vocal with their praise and constructive in their criticisms.

I specifically want to thank Patrick Campbell, whose catering company provided the group with drinks and snacks, and Michelle Roberts, the executive director of the Glendale YWCA.

I asked the group to come up with three sets of ideas: things they liked, things they believe need to be changed, and ideas for things to be done in the near future.

I said that I wanted to make myself and the paper accountable to the board and their ideas, and this column is part of how I’m fulfilling that promise.

There were many ideas presented, and many good ones. Though I decided to limit my published list below to the top three, I made it clear that any member of the board was free to give his or her own thoughts via a letter-to-the-editor. And, I will point out, to anyone in the community who wants their say.

Three things that the group likes:

-- The coverage of local high school and college sports is excellent.

-- Columnists are relevant to the community and have interesting things to say.

-- The paper does not shy away from longer-form or controversial articles.

Three things that need to be improved or changed:

-- The News-Press should be more of a community resource, in terms of civic services and local event listings.

-- The News-Press should have more profiles of interesting people who live or work here.

-- There should be online newsletters and email news blasts that interested people can subscribe to.

Three things that should be done in the near future:

-- A greater commitment to hiring reporters and editors who are already part of the Glendale community. That is, people who grew up in the area or have strong ties to it.

-- Use of online polls or other interactive tools to help determine coverage.

-- Additional coverage of Glendale's lower-income and underrepresented communities as well as more coverage south of the 134 (Ventura) Freeway.

The next meeting of the Glendale Community Advisory Board will be scheduled for the late spring. At that meeting, I will be explaining what the paper has done with the recommendations and seeking additional thoughts on how well we’re doing.

If you’d like to be involved with either the Burbank or Glendale boards, it’s not too late. Just drop me a line. Be sure to let me know which paper’s board you’re interested in joining.

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DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 627-3234 or dan.evans@latimes.com.

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