SINCE we resumed publication of two editions of the Daily Dispatch last April, we have been trying to find the right mix of stories for each. It’s what is known in the trade as copy tasting.
The First Edition prints much earlier than the Final to allow time to get it up to Mthatha and beyond. For the Final Edition, we have an additional three hours to craft a newspaper for East London, Bhisho and Grahamstown.
The question we face every evening is what to drop from the First Edition to make space for different stories in the Final.
To do that, we make certain assumptions about what interests our readers in different areas and I am sure we get it quite wrong sometimes.
Does a reader in East London care a fig for the internecine rows in Port St Johns and other small inland municipalities? Could a reader in Mthatha care less about the reopening of the old Buffalo River Bridge?
As recently as 2008, the Dispatch had a person whose title was copy taster and whose job it was to select from the available bouquet what should actually go into the newspaper. But the current editorial staff is barely two-thirds of the size it was then and something had to give.
Most other newspapers had relinquished the position earlier in the relentless drive to cut costs and keep newspapers viable.
It was an important sacrifice because the copy taster’s role was one of the most specialised “dark arts” of journalism. It required a person with an instinctive feel for every sector of his or her newspaper’s readership – someone with a finger on every pulse.
We may no longer have an individual whose sole responsibility it is to make that selection – it is now shared between the editor, the various section editors and the chief sub-editor – but we do have e-mail.
That does allow us to speak more directly to readers and to hear more directly from readers. Some of you already have taken the trouble to comment on some of our news selections. To those we say thanks; to others who might have a view, we say please tell us.
And here is a specific question: Have you noticed the increased coverage of local sport and, if you have, is it too much, still too little or perhaps too much about East London? — The Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org