The following questions came to the BH-FP newsroom from Bolivar Intermediate School fourth-graders.
What things or steps do reporters need to do before interviewing someone?
Reporters should do background research prior to an interview. In a way, they should become experts on all that is known on the topic in order to identify what questions still need to be answered.
They need to break down the topic and prepare to ask loads of questions — from the basics to the complex. The end goal is to provide readers with the facts in the simplest, most understandable way possible.
Best practice means reporters should identify themselves clearly before interviewing a source.
Relationships with sources are extremely important. Many reporters spend years building these relationships. This is particularly true at a community newspaper, like the BH-FP, where our sources are our neighbors. In many cases, we have grown up with them. We go to church together. We see one another while shopping.
When being given a deadline, what does that mean? What if you miss your deadline?
We work with a number of internal deadlines that all lead up to the big one — our press deadline, the time at which we must begin printing the paper. If we do not meet that deadline, we risk not being able to put a newspaper in the hands of readers for the first time in over 151 years.
How does the newsroom work as a team to ensure the best things are being published?
Every bit of copy undergoes rigorous fact-checking, editing and proofing. At the BH-FP, a reporter files his or her “clean” copy — by “clean,” we mean already carefully fact-checked and proofed — with the editor.
Once the editor has identified any additional work that needs to be completed, including pointing out more info that may need gathered or clarified, the reporter reworks the story and proofs it again.
Then, the editor gives it a final read before placing it on a page. Once it is on the page — this first printout is known as a proof — other members of the newsroom carefully proofread it before we send the paper to press.
The trick is that all of these steps must happen within a few hours — or in even less time in cases of breaking news we need to get out immediately.
What roles do photographs play in your publication?
Photographs and other art play a vital role in telling a story. We prioritize art that includes human faces for a few reasons. First, as a community newspaper, we have a mission to document the lives of our neighbors. Additionally, human faces draw readers into a story.
What inspired members of the newsroom to choose journalism as a profession?
Journalism is a calling. We work irregular hours, are virtually always on-call and must make real sacrifices in terms of our personal lives. However, we believe whole-heartedly in the role of a free press and its impact on a free society.
We do what we do because we believe a free press is essential to the health and growth of the county we love.
We believe in Polk County, and we love it — for all its strengths and its flaws.
It isn’t an easy job. We get a lot of angry phone calls, and we are the subject of frequent vicious social media posts. But ensuring the right of our neighbors to know the facts — the truth — is a mission we believe in. Firmly. Completely. Always. Even on the most difficult days.
Without the BH-FP, the home we love would become a news desert, where locally-focused, vetted, responsibly reported, fact-checked information wouldn’t reach citizens. A place where the local press does not exist to perform its sacred duty is a place where a government truly by and for the people is not possible.
What are the different roles and jobs being done to successfully run the BH-FP?
In addition to reporters, an associate editor, an editor and a publisher, several groups play important roles at the BH-FP. The advertising department sells ads, which pay for much of the cost associated with running a newspaper. Circulation staff brings in and maintains subscribers/readers. Graphic designers help lay out the newspapers. Press workers operate the machines that print the newspaper. Mailroom and delivery staff get them to newsstands and to the post office — and eventually into readers’ hands. Customer service staff assist readers and advertisers with their day-to-day questions and needs.