Vol. 8, No. 45
Nov. 9-15, 2000
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The Story Behind the Stories You Read Each Week

In the newspaper business, sending a paper to press is called putting it to bed. It's a nice metaphor, because we do indeed feel like mother tucking a rambunctious brood in for the night. Once the stories are in repose and the pages finally composed, we smile on each, admiring its virtues and its place in the family.

But in real life, you can't choose your family, while every story that makes it into print is a choice - though most also have chance on their side.

We're asked a lot about how we choose our stories - sometimes in curiosity, sometimes in disappointment, sometimes in pique, with rage spilling through the receiver of the phone or sizzling through the envelope or e-mail. Here, in answer, is the story behind the stories you read each week.

Every paper has a territory it hopes to cover. For most dailies and many weeklies and twice-weeklies, that territory is a community of geography. Bay Weekly is a small paper with a big territory. We call our territory Chesapeake Country, and we define it, in line with our distribution, as stretching from Severna Park in the north to Bowie-Crofton in the west to Solomons in the south. That's a big stretch for a small paper, encompassing parts of three counties. We cover so big a territory because we believe that all of us in Chesapeake Country are united by a community of interests defined by our Bay and its environment, quality of life, culture and lore and recreational opportunities.

When you're a paper of record in your territory, it's your business to try to cover every single thing that happens: from births and deaths to club meetings to neighborhood-, community-, nation- or world-shaping news. Bay Weekly doesn't try to be a paper of record. In each of our three counties, there are papers that do that job - with bigger budgets, bigger staffs, more pages and, sometimes, more narrowly focused territories.

When we're tucking in the family late Wednesday, we feel we've done our job when we've touched each of our bases: environment, quality of life, culture and lore and recreation in Chesapeake Country. We've done it better when we have a nice geographic spread so that every so often, our stories reach into your community of geography as well as your community of interest.

As we consider the family of stories, we hope that come tomorrow, we'll touch your heart with at least one, trigger a laugh with another and tickle your wits with more. If you see yourself or your concerns reflected in one of those stories, we've done our job. If we don't spark some differences of opinion, we'll be disappointed - but we won't be disappointed if you sometimes disagree so vigorously that you howl - and dash off a letter.

We'll feel disappointed if you feel left out. Yet we know you sometimes will, for we get more leads, more good ideas, than a paper of our size and mission can respond to. Sometimes a story is too big; sometimes a tip is too late; sometimes a request is a demand that we fight somebody's war for them. Sometimes we're already committed; sometimes we can't make the right match. And sometimes choice and chance is on both our sides, and on Wednesday night, it's your story we're putting to bed to awaken the hearts and minds of 40,000 readers Thursday morning.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly