A peek behind the curtain

Welcome to Editor’s Notes, a new blog where the senior editors of Stars and Stripes will take you behind the scenes into the decisions we make as we prepare the daily newspaper and website that serve as vital information lifelines for hundreds of thousands of American servicemembers and their families.

From the selection of stories and photos that run on the front page to the line-up of columnists and cartoonists we feature, we know that our readers sometimes question our editorial choices and priorities. Often, these questions come in the form of emails you send to us directly. Sometimes, they are posed in Letters to the Editor, or posted in comments to an article on our website.

Now, Editorial Director Terry Leonard and Senior Managing Editor Howard Witt will begin to give you answers. You may not always agree with our reasoning, but at least we hope to explain it.

This week, two Letters to the Editor caught our eye.

One letter writer -- seconded by numerous web commenters -- decries our decision to eliminate the weekly Volksmarch column from the Thursday Europe edition of the paper. The writer says that he and hundreds of others depended upon the list of official Volksmarch hikes across Europe to plan their weekly recreational walks.

Here’s what happened: Declining advertising revenues have forced Stars and Stripes, like many newspapers, to cut our budget, reduce our newsprint consumption and lay off some valued employees. We are attempting to make these reductions in ways that are largely invisible to our readers, but sometimes we can’t hide the losses.

The Volksmarch page consumed an entire page of space each week for content that was of interest to a small percentage of our readers. So we elected to move that content onto the new Travel section of the website, where we hope Volksmarchers in Europe will download it and print it out for themselves. Not an ideal solution, but the best compromise we could come up with.

Another letter writer takes us to task for what he perceives as too many gruesome stories about dead children appearing in the American Roundup section of the paper. “Please take a break from all the tragic death stories,” the writer says. “It’s depressing.”

Here we plead guilty as charged. We have long struggled to find the right balance of stories for the American Roundup section, which aims to provide brief “news from home” stories from across the United States each day. These can be crime or disaster stories, but they can and also should include a mix of brighter human-interest stories. Sometimes, we fall into a pattern of over-emphasizing bad news. We will strive to do better.



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