Community members voice concerns with new Dispatch
ONEIDA -- Just hours after the premier edition of the Oneida Sunda
Editor Kurt Wanfried addressed the dozen or so area residents who came out to learn more about the fate of their local newspaper by explaining how the Dispatch radically changed with the printing of its first-ever Sunday edition.
The decision to change to a three-day-a-week print edition came after weeks of carefully considering all options available to the paper and its customers following the November announcement by the Post Standard that they were going to a three-day-a-week print edition, Wanfried said. Initially, Dispatch management felt the changes introduced by the Post Standard could provide opportunities for the Dispatch; however, since the Post Standard currently prints and delivers the Oneida Dispatch, trying to continue with a six-day print edition with print and delivery costs could have tripled the costs of producing the paper.
“I can understand why people are hesitant to the changes that we are making,” Wanfried said, “But I have a hard time understanding how anyone would want a paper zero times a week, which is what might have happened if we had not taken this course of action.”
Local papers across the country have been in contact with the Dispatch since it announced the change to a three-day-per-week print edition along with the news also being delivered electronically through its website. “We are the first small paper that I am aware of to take this three-day approach,” Wanfried said.
Newspapers rely heavily on both circulation money as well as advertising to operate and make a profit. Wanfried said the Dispatch has always been a news organization. The advertisers have predominately been the local mom and pop businesses, but these small independent shops have significantly dwindled in numbers in recent years. Meanwhile, the number of people visiting the Dispatch’s website over the last year has doubled.
Readers voiced concerns about the print quality of the first page of the new Sunday Comics section, but Wanfried promised to reprint this page in Tuesday’s edition. “If it was worth running in the first place, it is worth running right,” Wanfried said.
Obituaries were another topic of concern. Many customers rely on the Dispatch for information about area deaths and calling hours. Wanfried also acknowledged this concern but said the website would be updated throughout the day with notifications of local deaths.
Some preferred a smaller comics area, others wanted more local news, some wanted larger fonts and others wanted smaller photos. Wanfried explained that the hard part of publishing a local paper is that the only thing that people share is that they live here. Some enjoy and rely on the outdoors sections, others enjoy the local church announcements and others prefer the local sections. “The Dispatch will continue to be a local paper in both print and electronic media to all of these people,” he said.
Other concerns included the new font size of the dateline. The dateline tells the reader from where the story originated. The new font size was part of the overall new look for the paper designed by Journal Register – parent company of the Oneida Dispatch. Wanfried said that following Sunday’s discussion, he and his staff would be going through the paper page by page and addressing the concerns readers brought up.
Some residents felt there was almost too much information in the new edition, but others felt this was a positive thing in that they could read some of the paper, put it down and still have many more interesting articles, columns and special features to read the next time they picked it back up.
Change is never easy in the beginning. Both the Dispatch and the customers attending the Community Media Lab Sunday agreed on that, but also realized that this may very well be the last generation that really has a choice. Print publication will someday be a thing of the past. For now, we still have the benefits of both print and electronic options.