FROM THE EDITOR | Reader goes one for three - an idea that sticks

While at a doctor's office a few weeks ago, a woman recognized me. I guess the photo that runs with this column is pretty good, because right away she identified me.

Small talk about the newspaper business and our faith eventually turned into something more important -- she wanted to share some ideas. We get a lot of people sharing ideas. Some are outstanding, a few are pretty scary and most are reasonable. We do our best to listen to and consider as many as we can.

Most of our content comes from our readers, but not always as requests or pitches. Often, topics of casual conversation pique our interest: somebody knows a guy who is living the Gospel message, parents boast about a school program their children love, a neighbor asks a simple question with no easy answer. We hear these ideas and turn them into stories and photos -- we share the faith with others.

We don't have the resources required to cover every idea. We have to pick and chose, and consider each for its newsworthiness, timeliness, likely interest and, sometimes, just whether or not the publisher wants it. (The publisher, by the way, is the archbishop.)

So when people take the time to share ideas, I tend to listen with enthusiasm and caution. It's exciting to know that people are engaging with the newspaper, that the stories inspire them to share. But I am cautious about the ideas because I know that we cannot -- or we will not -- do all of them. I don't want anybody to believe that merely sharing an idea means we'll jump on the story, and I don't like to disappoint excited readers. I also want people to know that we really do cherish their input and that without them we would not exist.

So when the woman at the doctor's office shared her ideas, I listened. The three things she spoke about the most were things we tend to hear most often.

She loves Bishop Robert J. Hermann's column but does not like that it is written for two Sundays in advance. Fair enough, I said, but we decided to do that because not all of our readers receive the newspaper on Friday. Readers outside the metro area often receive their papers on Monday or Tuesday, and by then Sunday content could be dated. The compromise, I explained, is that many readers will need to keep their newspaper around longer if they want to read Bishop Hermann's column just before Mass.

She also doesn't like it when we put white text on a dark page. Fair enough, I said, but I explained that we occasionally do this as a design feature. In this business these days, the paper has to visually invite readers as well as have great writing and photography. I guess some people like edgy design and some don't. This is totally subjective, and our varied audience reflects the larger Church.

She really wanted the Pope's prayer intentions in the paper, to remind the faithful to pray with the pontiff. Fair enough, I said. So we started including them in last week's paper, on the Pope Francis page. You can see the intentions this week on page 21.

Thank you for sharing your idea, ma'am. And thank you for letting me listen.

Phillips is the director of publications for the Archdicoese of St. Louis.

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