My perspective - Serving up a balanced diet… of news


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

Neepawa Banner & Press

Some weeks, I worry that we’ll scare off our readers.  As we left for the holiday weekend, the list of completed or in process stories included two about Neepawa council (both about the financial plan), two about local annual general meetings, one about changes at the planning district and one about the impact on businesses of the federal and provincial budgets.  I was (only sort of) joking that we’d scare our readers away from the May 2 paper; they wouldn’t yet have woken up, a week later.

But the one thing you can always guarantee in this business is that there will be change and the unexpected— our plans are almost never executed in the way we originally planned. Something always comes up. That was the case for this paper, as Monday morning greeted us with the major news that HyLife Ltd, the company the owns HyLife Foods, Neepawa’s largest employer, was to be bought by Thailand’s largest agricultural conglomerate, Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF).

By Monday at lunch time, only a few hours after we had posted it on our website, the story had been viewed more times than last week’s paper. I’m sure lots of readers will be picking up the hard copy of this week’s paper to find out more about what this will mean for the community. This breaking news meant that it wouldn’t be all financial reports for readers this week. Phew!

Some weeks, putting together a newspaper feels a little like trying to force our readers to eat their vegetables.  Municipal, provincial and federal budgets are extremely important and have a meaningful impact on people’s day-to-day lives. Policy changes and updates about the business community can signal the health of a community’s business sector and the employment it provides.  But that doesn’t mean it’s what most people want to read about, even though they know they should.

Most people want to read about the fun stuff. Our more popular stories involve sports, things kids are doing at school and inspiring stories about local residents. They involve accidents, crime and scandal. People pick up the paper for flyers and ads, to know what they should buy or where they should go. These most certainly aren’t junk, but they aren’t the veggies you begrudgingly eat, and only because someone is watching.

Here lies our challenge, we need to inform the public about these things, but few people have a good grasp of the terms— balance sheet, income statement, audited or unaudited— let alone what they mean. People know these things are important, but we need to help them understand what they’re reading. After reading a story, people should have a basic grasp of the facts, what the impact will be and where they can go for more information.

Information is more accessible than ever, but our job is to turn it into news.  We take that raw information and help readers understand what it will mean for them; will they be paying more taxes or less, and what will the money fund? Who do they talk to before undertaking a building project? What is the expected impact on local jobs? If someone is only reading our story, what do they need to take away from it so they can be better and more engaged citizens?

As our readers look through this “veggie” rich paper, we hope we’ve included enough seasoning (or bacon) to make them go down easily and maybe have readers coming back for more.