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June 2012
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Five goals in my new assignment

By STEVE WILSON Executive Editor

Most kids may not get a kick out of going to their dad's office on Sundays, but I did.

His was in the newsroom of the daily newspaper in Rock Island, Ill., where he was managing editor. While he worked at his vintage rolltop desk, I read the Associated Press teletype machines which printed news stories, sports stories, and best of all, baseball box scores.

It felt like the center of the news universe, and I loved it, starting me on a journalism career that has stretched from Lexington to Detroit to Minneapolis-St. Paul to Scottsdale-Phoenix to northern Kentucky and now Paducah.

Over all those years, the news business has changed dramatically. Television, the Internet and social media now bring a steady flood of information, opinion and agitation.

For most media, the primary criterion for news has shifted from what's most important to what's most likely to grab attention and increase the audience. People are treated more as eyeballs to be entertained and hooked, less as citizens who need to know what's going on in their community and the world.

I don't buy the trend and instead hold to the view that giving readers a well-reported, thoughtful and relevant newspaper is the bedrock of good journalism. The Sun has a history of doing just that, so I think I'm in the right place to continue my work as an editor.

I've been on the job all of a week and have much to learn about the community, the people and the issues of this area. But I would like to share a few words about my goals. Here are five:

(1) Be consistently your best source of news. I want the Sun to be more authoritative, more interesting and more worth your time than ever. We will cover stories that touch your life, hold public officials accountable and surprise you with solid enterprise and investigative reporting. Whether you read us in print or online, we will be your most reliable source.

(2) Get beneath the surface of the news. The best journalism doesn't report only what happened, it explains why and provides context. We will dig deeper, find underlying reasons and try to connect the dots.

(3) Act as a catalyst for positive change. Good news organizations uncover problems and don't stop there; they also call attention to ways to do things better. Some of our most important work will arouse people to come together to find a solution. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, former publisher of The New York Times, put it this way: "We tell the public which way the cat is jumping. The public will take care of the cat."

(4) Highlight achievement and good works. As much as we want to expose misconduct and other wrongdoing, we will also look for good news that reflects the bright sides of life and give it prominent play.

(5) Demonstrate that we deserve your trust. Our most precious asset is credibility, which comes down to the accuracy and fairness of what we report. Those two virtues rank highest in this newsroom. We will work hard to balance aggressive reporting with an intelligent sense of caring for the people who live here.

The newsroom has seen higher-than-usual turnover in recent weeks, and I hope to bring the staff up to full strength as quickly as possible. Our reporters, who have been working hard to cover as many stories as they can, will soon be part of a larger team providing more local content.

While the Sun's focus on local news will not change, we are beefing up our coverage of state news by joining the Kentucky Press Association News Service. We will be able to carry stories from 14 daily papers, including the state's two largest in Louisville and Lexington, plus many weeklies to supplement reporting by the Associated Press.

Any newspaper benefits from hearing from readers, and for an editor new in town, that's doubly true. If you have a comment, suggestion or question, please write me at swilson@paducahsun.com or at 408 Kentucky Ave., Paducah, KY 42003 or call me at (270) 575-8666.

I also want to encourage more letters for publication. The editorial page is a forum for lively discussion of local, state and national issues. First-time writers are especially welcome. Please keep your letters to no more than 300 words.

I look forward to contributing to this community and helping the Sun enrich your life.

Steve Wilson is executive editor of The Paducah Sun.

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