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The front page - focusing on local vs. national news

By Scott Tibbs, May 25, 2012

A letter to the editor on May 18 criticized the Herald-Times because a national news story the author thought important was "buried" deep in the paper. Anyone who has followed this blog or my comments on HeraldTimesOnline.com knows I have been very critical of the H-T over the years, but I do not think this is a fair criticism.

Several years ago, the H-T decided to change its focus to concentrate first and foremost on local news, and to feature local news on the front page. (For some historical perspective on this issue, see comments from the H-T editor on this subject from November 29, 2003 and July 10, 2004.)

I disagreed at the time and was critical of the policy, but after several years of this policy I think it works. For the most part, the days of people getting the majority of their news from the local newspaper are over, and that trend was already in the process of being established when the H-T made its decision to highlight local news on the front page and move nation/world news to a later section.

If I have a criticism of the Herald-Times' layout, it is that nation/world stories are often inside the sports section, rather than having nation/world news on the front of a section and having sports take a position inside the paper. While I recognize that a lot of people go directly to the sports section, nation/world news is more important in the impact that news has and should take a more prominent position.

The local focus, though, is the right decision for a paper covering a city of this size. You can get national and world news from dozens of news Web sites and 24/7 cable news channels, but the local news coverage the H-T offers you really cannot get anywhere else - or at least not in the volume the H-T provides.

Now, the quality of that local news is another debate entirely...