Admitting when one has made a mistake is often a humbling chore — but also an important one. In this case, the apology is due to our readers who were shocked to find their weekly TV magazine missing from last Sunday’s paper. There are two ways to look at their reactions - and their calls - which were swift and numerous. The first would be “Oh, my gosh,” followed by a series of rash and often unwise reactions. The second may be more difficult to remember when someone is passionately expressing their disappointment in your decision, but that message is that our readers care about the Bulletin and its content - and look to the newspaper for information. And as a business, that’s a good place to find yourself.
Over the past several years, this newspaper’s management team has struggled with maintaining the Bulletin’s quality, in the face of ever-rising expenses, with as little impact on our readers as possible.
At times that job is actually made more complicated by the changes in technology and information distribution. Some of the tried and true practices which newspapers “have always done” have become obsolete, while others remain vital. The trick is to identify those features and adapt them to the times - realizing that the decision will never be universally embraced.
Newspaper puzzles have undergone a major change during the past several years, with Sudoku joining the traditional crossword puzzle as “must have” features. While many larger newspapers once staffed entire bureaus in national and international capitols, the Internet and around-the-clock cable news programming have lessened the amount of space - and resources - most newspapers dedicate to that particular coverage. In the case of the Bulletin, digital technology allowed us to add a Saturday morning publication that contains Friday night’s high school football coverage. These are all changes - some additions, some subtractions - that we’ve had to address recently. And hopefully our readers have thought we made the correct decision more often than not.
Television listings, which as recently as 15 years ago were fairly limited and straight forward, have grown to include more than 150 channel choices. In the Brown County area we now have at least four different programming providers, each with a different channel lineup. Given the sheer volume of programming choices, the decision about which channels to include and not include, as well as how to package the listings, has been a topic of ongoing discussion. Should we migrate a complete list to the Web site? Should we poll readers to determine which channels are most popular? Are readers using the TV guide we publish, or are they getting listings directly from their television?
Some of those questions were answered over the past few days when we heard from more than 150 of our readers, most of whom wanted the book back, but all of whom said that our new daily listings were too small. While it’s not likely that the book will be returning, we have done something about the daily listings, which you can find on the second page of the Bulletin today, where they will be anchored on most days. Those listings are now larger and should be easier to read. Additionally, the network listings include programming details, something not available in the old TV book.
Our mistake, though, was not letting our readers know to expect the change or to explain why the decision was made. And for that, we apologize. Our customers — readers and advertisers - are the lifeblood of our business. Both groups have come to expect a quality product that meets their needs, something we believe we deliver on a consistent basis. Your feedback about how we’re doing, and on the television listings in particular, are crucial to our making improvements. We’re continuing to work on those improvements and we hope that you’ll continue to pick us up as they develop.
Bill Crist is associate publisher and general manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.