How do you get the local newspaper to cover events and issues that are important to your community? That seemed to be the main question a small group of north Long Beach residents wanted answered last Sunday, and representatives of five different news media were on hand to do just that.
The event was arranged by the North Long Beach Community Action Group (CAG) and held at the North Police Substation. News media representatives included Neena Strichart, publisher of the Signal Tribune; Rich Archbold, editor emeritus of the Press-Telegram; Harry Saltzgaver, executive editor of the Gazette Newspapers; Dave Wielenga, publisher of greaterlongbeach.com; Sarah Bennett, executive editor of The Long Beach Post; and Greggory Moore, senior contributor of The Long Beach Post.
“To get information to us is relatively easy,” Moore said. “Just email us.” He explained that the email addresses of all Long Beach Post reporters are posted with each online publication. “If you want to communicate with us anonymously, you can always do that too,” he added.
Bennett noted that the publication focuses on reporting newsworthy events that happen in Long Beach. “We want to do more coverage of north Long Beach and other areas within the city,” she said. “To us, no issue is too small, so just email us or contact us through the social media like Twitter and the other social media.”
Strichart stressed that the Signal Tribune responds well to tips it gets from local residents. “We get many of our news stories from people like you who phone us or email us to tell us about events and occurrences,” she said, adding that the Signal Tribune welcomes press releases but cannot publish all of them. “We have fliers for anyone who wants one that show you how to put together a press release,” she said, motioning to the handouts she had provided.
Wielenga said he also distributes fliers on how to write press releases, and Archbold noted that the Press-Telegram has similar instructions on its website.
Archbold also outlined a process that can increase the likelihood of a newspaper publishing a press release or covering an event. “The first commandment is know your editor,” he said. “You would be surprised to know how much mail is addressed to editors who are dead or who have not been with the paper for 10 years.” He told the audience to make sure they know the names of the people who edit the paper, address press releases to them, and make follow-up phone calls. “Don’t worry about being a pest,” he said.
Saltzgaver added that it’s also important to know what kinds of news a paper reports, and what department handles the type of event that you want covered, so you don’t waste your time sending press releases or news tips to the wrong newspaper or person. “And if you send us a press release, don’t worry if you are not a good writer,” he said. “Just send us the facts, and we will put the story together.”
Strichart noted that her editor likes to get press releases and clear photos for genuine news. “But if it’s an ad, pay for it,” she said. “Advertising money is how newspapers pay their bills and continue to be able to cover news.”
Saltzgaver agreed. “When we have less advertising, we have less room for the news,” he explained.
Strichart added that letters to the editor are also a good way to publicize issues and events. “Send us letters,” she said. “Sometimes we get a letter to the editor that causes us to send out a reporter and write an article on the topic described in the letter.”
Wielenga told the audience to keep in mind that no one publication in Long Beach can give the city the kind of news coverage it deserves but each news medium contributes something that the others do not. “And now, I want to ask the audience members a question,” he said. “What news are we not covering that you wish we would cover?”
Dennis O’Hoyt was the first to raise his hand. “Those of us who live in the neighborhoods adjacent to Jordan High School would like some coverage of the troubles we have,” he said, explaining that traffic congestion, parking problems, noise and litter have plagued the residents in that area for years. “We are also very concerned about how the high school’s expansion plans will impact our neighborhoods, and we keep getting misinformation about that from the school administration and the board of education,” he said.
Several audience members agreed with O’Hoyt.
Laurie Angel, a local resident and community activist, said she hoped the news media would cover the impacts of the city abandoning its redevelopment projects in north Long Beach. “This part of the city was on the cusp of some incredible things happening,” she said. “Now that the redevelopment agency has gone away, a lot of the things we had planned may never happen.”
Dan Pressburg, CAG president, suggested another major news story. “The [California] Department of Finance recently denied funding for the completion of the construction of Fire Station 12,” he said. “It is more than half completed, and now they are saying we cannot have the funding necessary to finish it.”
Another local resident, Uduak Ntuk, told the media representatives that not enough coverage was being given to the gun violence and other crimes occurring in north Long Beach on a regular basis.
None of the news media representatives promised to provide coverage for any of the issues described by audience members, but several agreed the matters were worth looking into. Other topics discussed during the two-hour meeting included the Internet’s impact on print media, the lack of a Spanish-language newspaper covering Long Beach news, and the fine line between objective and fair news reporting. Archbold added there are often three or four different sides to a story and to be fair to each can be challenging.
More than a dozen people came to “meet the press,” and Pressburg said he was very satisfied with the exchange of information and ideas and he hoped the discussions would spawn more news stories focusing on north Long Beach.