Here are my comments on the 10/15/08 issue.
I've given the editor-in-chief a hard copy of the paper with more-detailed remarks.
THINGS I LIKE
The front page continues to look professional and eye-catching. This week there's more news on the front, which pleases me as a reader.
The news section has lots of solid material. The Coleman-Franken-Barkley debate preliminary is a great idea. It would be helpful to spell out the conditions – "We asked the same five questions of all three candidates," that sort of thing – at the top of the spread. But the information itself is well presented and useful. You were smart to get out in front of this story instead of presenting debate coverage a week after the event.
NOTE: It will be interesting to see what the Statesman does on its Web page with the debate. This is the sort of story that calls out for some sort of same-day coverage, and the Web page makes that possible.
In addition to the debate story, this issue includes several other stories that alert readers to events that are coming up. As a reader, I thank you. I want to read about a play or an art exhibit when I have a chance to see it rather than after it's closed.
This week the A&E section gives me three such stories: Seussical the Musical, dance by Semblesque Performance Company, and Frank Big Bear's art at the Tweed. Advance notice of the events serves everyone. Readers learn of events they might want to attend, the artists and organizers get the word out about their work, and the newspaper has a feeling of being plugged in and knowing what's going on in its community.
The paper is moving away from mundane topic leads. Once again, I thank you as a reader. My favorite lead this week was penned by Ted Norgaard in his story about the boat race on Rock Pond:
Cardboard isn't designed to float, but last Thursday in Rock Pond by Oakland Apartments, it kind of did.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
The story about the city's 300-foot for rental properties is nicely done, and it's a big story – especially on campus. I'd play it up more. This story merits some sort of mention on the front page. This is one of the week's big stories, and it has some good reporting in it, so steer readers to it.
During the reporting phase, I'd suggest that editors and reporters make a list of who might appear in each story. Pretty often Statesman stories are missing one or two perspectives that would give the story that much more depth.
For example, the 300-foot rule story would be even stronger with a landlord's voice in it. We hear from a city council member who describes the landlords' position, but that makes me want to hear from a landlord.
Editorial point of view
I'm puzzled by the use of the first-person in the unsigned editorial. Who is this mysterious "I" who's addressing me? Either the writer should sign the piece – the option I prefer, because it tells readers where these opinions come from – or the writer should avoid the first-person. I'm in the minority in my distaste for unsigned editorials; most big papers run them. But they also avoid using "I."