Last week, I waxed nostalgic about my first year in Sanford and remembered back to a time before there was a Super Wal-Mart and when the bypass was just a little bit shorter (just a little).
While writing last week, I also thought about the changes we’ve made in The Herald since last February and the changes that are still to come. From Day 1, I vowed to do what I can to make this newspaper more relevant to this community. I also promised that you’d see changes in our format and improvements to our online product.
Let’s see where we stand after a year, shall we?
Look, The Herald wasn’t broke when I got here, so I don’t feel like it needed “fixing.” It did, however, need a new look.
In other words, it was still wearing a Members Only jacket and using too much Aqua Net on its bangs.
So in April, we began the process of looking at what needed improving and what needed to be added (or taken away). Many think of a redesign as just simply a new look, but we went well beyond that when we launched our redesign in August.
In addition to the visual changes, we made The Herald more local. Every day, your first five or six pages is local news (or state news with local inter est). We took Page 2, which was typically our national/world news page and made it what my former newspaper liked to call “local-local,” adding meeting dates, local birthdays, local briefs and local faces.
The national and world stuff — which I’ve never said wasn’t important — was pushed back to our later pages, and on Wednesdays and Sundays, we devote a whole section to news from outside of North Carolina.
In essence, we added more national news … it’s just not so “out there” as it used to be.
My favorite part of the redesign has been the Carolina section, the baby of Community Editor Jamie Stamm. Carolina is our features section, and each day, we try to cram as much local news — church, civic clubs, weddings, announcements, local schools … you name it — as we can. This section went from just running Wednesday and Sundays to running daily … and we still have a tough time getting all the locally submitted stuff in.
This past Monday, we tweaked the redesign a little bit on the fronts of each section and added more space for news and a new information rail on some of the section fronts. I’ve called it Redesign 2.1.
But that change has been so minor, we haven’t received a single complaint (or pat on the back) for it. That must mean people are OK with it.
Trust me, if they didn’t like it, I’d know.
Where we’ve fallen short in my first year is our Web site, sanfordherald.com. I won’t go into why it hasn’t changed (long story short, contracts), but I am happy to say change is on the way.
Sometime in 2008 (a specific date hasn’t been chosen), visitors to our Web site will see a significant change.
First and foremost, all the local content will be free (yes, including obituaries), and we will have the capability to post breaking news updates throughout the day.
Our goal is to get you to, first, visit our site and second, keep coming back. By having continuous news updates (even on the slower days), we’re hoping our visitors will make it a habit to check on us regularly. Then on days when something major happens, you’ll know to visit us for updates. Until our site is redone, we’ve created staff blogs here to get people aware of our online presence. To date, just about everybody in the newsroom has a blog, and each blogger’s site “visits” have gone up considerably in the past few months.
We’ve made a few changes to our comics this year, and before anybody asks, yes, we’re bringing back “Dennis the Menace.”
It may take a week for this to happen, though, as we have to reconfigure the look of our page.
In addition, watch out for changes to our Sunday comics this year. Before any changes are made, we’ll look to our readers to let us know what to keep and what to toss.
We’re always open to comments and suggestions from our readers, so it’s safe to say we’ll have more changes at The Herald within the coming year.
Keep giving us your feedback and we’ll continue to work to make this something you’re proud to call your hometown newspaper.