For the past several weeks, the Times-Gazette has included a customer survey in its expiration notices, asking readers for their personal evaluations concerning the T-G's delivery service and newspaper content.
Most of our readers have been very kind in their remarks, offering constructive criticism that we welcome and examine. One thing these comments prove, to paraphrase a familiar adage, is that you can please some of the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
But we'll add one more thought to that assertion: Some people you're not going to please any of the time.
For example, one reader complained about "the back page that is of no interest to anyone." This one has us puzzled. The back page is sometimes a full page ad, otherwise it is often a full feature page -- frequently in color -- that has included such stories and photographs as our soldiers in Iraq, the high school band, church members' mission trips.
Now you might be against the war (hopefully, not against our soldiers), you might not like dedicated teenage musicians or be indifferent to ministry missions. Then how about a colorful tour of the Biltmore, Shelbyville's city tennis champions, 4-H winners, the library's summer reading program finale, actively involved blind veterans, a church musical, Bell Buckle's Moon Pie Festival, a salute to the American flag? These are a few of the "back page" stories we've featured over the past few weeks.
We don't expect all of these to please all of you all of the time ... but "of no interest to any one?" Ever? To quote John Stossel, "Give me a break."
A complaint we certainly take to heart is the amount of mistakes we make, specifically typos. "Don't you have proofreaders there?" we're asked. Well ... no. We have me, copy editor David Melson, city editor John Carney. We, the reporters and some mighty fine pagination ladies make every effort to assure that each story, public service announcement, etc., is "proofed" by at least two of us each day. But someone whose job is strictly proofreading? That's a position few small-town dailies have budgeted.
No one hates a mistake like a newspaper editor/reporter. It's there for all to see, and it's embarrassing for each of us. Trust me, no one is more disturbed about the mistake than we who make them. But as much as we determinedly try, errors slip by us.
I could try to explain that to publish this daily newspaper six days a week, each of us in the news department types hundreds of words each day -- ranging from front page stories and weddings to obituaries and PSA's -- while at the same time answering the phone, talking to people who stop by, running out for a photo, etc.
But these are excuses ... and as long-time T-G Publisher Franklin Yates used to emphasize to us repeatedly, "there is no excuse."
Another reader complained about our new look. The redesign came about after months of studying other newspapers across the country and the realization that perhaps we had grown complacent. Every house occasionally needs a fresh coat of paint, a little redecorating to keep up with the times.
We here at the T-G are excited about our fresh design as we continue a tenacious effort to make our newspaper one that we and you, our readers, can be proud of.
The news staff recently picked up several awards at the Tennessee Press Association / Associated Press banquets and, considering we're in competition with newspapers three times our size, we did quite well.
Yet, while it's nice to be recognized by our peers, winning awards is not our primary goal -- it's about pleasing this community, giving you the news you want to read.
Familiar complaints we hear are that we do more for this [school, church, sport, business ... fill in the blank] than that one. Should that be the case, give us a call ... let us know what's going on.
Bedford County is comprised of approximately 41,000 people, hundreds of businesses and civic clubs, about 20 schools (plus daycares), and numerous sporting events. The T-G news staff consists of eight full-time staff members and two part-time. We try -- but there is no way we know everything that's going on in Bedford County unless someone out there lets us know.
Give us a call, write or e-mail, drop by the office. Let us know what's going on, what you want to read in your newspaper.
Be assured. We want to know what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. You may hurt our feelings a bit when you criticize, but you'll also keep us on our toes.
Kay Rose is editor of the Times-Gazette.