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New advisory board will help us stay community oriented

'We try hard to give those without a voice, a chance to be heard and to give minorities a place in the daily news cycle and I think we got good marks for that'
20210909 Baytoday office with mug turl
BayToday's office is on McIntyre St. across from city hall.

We work really hard at BayToday to get you news in an accurate and timely manner.

But we're not perfect, as many Facebook commenters like to point out:)

So we've established a local advisory panel of 10 respected men and women all representing a diverse spectrum of our local area to give us feedback on where we can improve.

We've been hitting five million page views a month, and that's a huge number, so we must be doing something right, but we think we can do better.

The group met recently in the board room of the new Hilton Hotel on the waterfront to discuss BayToday and throw around some ideas. I've been around journalism for a long time and developed a pretty thick skin, so I welcomed the input.

One of the first topics was our elimination of the comments section, replaced by an option to write directly to me as a letter to the editor. I'm on the fence on this one as I get story ideas and leads...sometimes the odd chuckle from comments.

But it was becoming a cesspool of negativity, comments were getting personal, not good for the community at large or BayToday. Our board members generally agreed that the move was a good and necessary one, but the jury is still out honestly. Some board members said they miss the real debate that some comments fostered.

What do you think? We've opened the comments section below this article.

There was also a discussion of the core values of BayToday. What do we stand for? Should we simply report the news, or take an active leadership role in the community. Would we consider writing editorials and supporting certain political candidates during elections?

Someone mentioned news releases and how some Villiage Media sites they read simply copy and paste the releases without doing a rewrite to take out the spin and jargon and make the language easier to understand.

This is actually a pet peeve of mine, and as long as I'm editor, we'll always do a rewrite aimed at making it simpler to read by eliminating unnecessary content and unsupported statements. Tiny staff at news websites like ours have made copy and pasting a valuable tool, but the group rightly pointed out that it's not journalism.

We were also questioned about mixing news and opinion. It can be a fine line but we always try and distinguish between the two. You might notice in the headline that we call it an opinion piece or letter to the editor. I'd be lying if I said reporters don't have their own bias, we're only human, but we make a real effort to separate the two.

A member suggested we put more effort into keeping important stories at the top. That's a good one. At BayToday we run stories in chronological order despite their relative importance. It means you get the latest news, but the flaw in that is we churn through so much content that these stories can quickly be displaced. We;re making an effort now to re-time stories at the end of the day so someone who only checks BayToday early in the morning, then later in the evening may actually miss something important.

By the way, sign up for our newsletter and you won't miss a thing.

We try hard to give those without a voice, a chance to be heard and to give minorities a place in the daily news cycle and I think we got good marks for that.

There was a concern that we give letters to the editor the same prominence as news stories. That's true, but I don't know if that's a bad thing.

Someone mentioned more high school news.

That's a tough one as we've found that area school boards do not like reporters asking questions. We all hate doing those stories because it is so hard to get honest answers quickly. The Near North School Board has a policy that reporters have to go through the Board's PR people and make appointments just to get an interview with our elected trustees that should be available and answering to the public. It's been my experience that school boards put up barriers to communication and make too many decisions behind closed doors where secrets are easier to keep from the public.

How do people and organizations get coverage in BayToday?

Send me an email or give me a call. But generally we want to help get your message out so we're happy to hear from you!

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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