As reporters, we're used to asking the questions. But we often field questions from the people we serve about why we covered or didn't cover a certain event, when we'll feature a certain deserving person, and generally how we decide what's newsworthy and what isn't.
That decision-making process is fluid by nature, and it can change every day with the news itself.
But, for starters, every decision is rooted in our mission statement: With a tradition of integrity, reliability and innovation, we are the source for information to engage, entertain and inspire Mid-Missourians.
While we publish a variety of content ranging from national politics to local church services, we're Jefferson City's community newspaper first. So we're constantly asking ourselves how we can engage members of our community with the news we're reporting and, ultimately, with each other.
We have reporters whose job it is to focus on local government, on local schools, on state government, on social services, on crime and public safety — and on many things in between.
It's everyone's job to relay to readers how those things affect their lives and life within our community.
With roughly one reporter for every 7,000 Jefferson City residents, we can't cover everything. We also serve readers outside city limits in Cole County, as well as southern Boone, Callaway, Maries, Miller, Moniteau and Osage counties.
Here's a look at some of the questions we as reporters and editors ask ourselves when deciding what makes it in the newspaper.
What information is the most important to the most people?
Community news organizations have a long history of informing residents about their local and state governments, holding people in power accountable to those they're responsible for serving, following residents' tax dollars, and arming people with information to give them a voice in their community life.
You'll find News Tribune reporters at City Council meetings, school board meetings and sessions of the Missouri General Assembly, as all of these entities discuss and make decisions on issues that affect a wide range of residents.
What information is the most essential for living in our community, regardless of how many people it's important to?
Sometimes what's most important to one person or a small group doesn't directly affect the whole community.
But if your house is the one at the end of a road about to flood (it's happened here before, and it probably will again), that information is as vital to you as any sweeping legislation affecting all Missourians.
Likewise for matters of public safety and health, like traffic hazards, police activity in a certain neighborhood, weather advisories, water boil orders, etc.
Not everyone who reads the News Tribune needs the help offered by Mid-Missouri's many social service agencies, but their work is a cornerstone of our reporting because we believe everyone who does need those services should have access to information about them.
What information helps connect community members with each other?
Our reporting on charitable organizations, for example, also serves to connect people in the community. While not everyone needs their services, sharing information about them offers an opportunity to everyone who might be able to help.
That's the hope behind a lot of the stories we publish, from profiles of individual people to our daily listing of community events.
Two long-running series — "Snapshot" and "Portrait," published every Sunday and Monday, respectively — have simple missions at the heart of what we do: turning the spotlight on Mid-Missourians. Snapshot features the work of a local government employee, and Portrait highlights a generally interesting person our readers might not have otherwise known. We've never run out of people to feature, and we don't expect to anytime soon.
We also dedicate a lot of time and newsprint to previewing and covering local events, where Mid-Missourians interact in person and enjoy what our community has to offer together.
What information would our community find otherwise helpful, interesting or entertaining?
Not everything we publish is what might be considered "essential" information. But if it's in the News Tribune, that's because we believe some of our readers consider it somehow useful or interesting.
This includes things like the newspaper's weekly entertainment section, feature stories about the history of Jefferson City's people and places, information about local businesses — you name it.
And sometimes we write stories we just think people will enjoy talking about. My favorite News Tribune story of 2018, for example, was about a local firefighter's family adopting a dog rescued from a house fire.
What do community members want us to cover?
The best way to see if we'll cover something? Just ask.
Depending on the topic, how it stands up to our standard criteria for coverage, and what else our reporters have on their plates that day, we may or may not always be able to deliver. However, it's a lot more likely that we'll cover something if we know it's happening. And, when we can't make it to an event, we often accept photos and information submitted by community members to share with our readers.
Anyone can suggest a story idea by calling our newsroom at 573-761-0240 or by emailing me at [email protected]
Rebecca Martin is city editor at the Jefferson City News Tribune and is responsible for assigning stories and working with reporters on coverage of events and issues.