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News editor delivers online philosophy

July 13, 2012
By BOB PETCHER,rpetcher@breezenewspapers.com , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

News-Press Executive Editor Terry Eberle has been around long enough to know his trade's industry is not ready to lie down and play dead.

The third generation newspaperman, who has been in the business for 41 years through which he has worked for 10 newspapers in nine communities, is familiar with change.

"I've been a part of the newspaper business since my grandfather, close to 100 years," said Eberle. "In the last five (years), this has probably been the greatest change in newspapers and media in the history of the world. But, the media and newspapers are not dead. We're actually growing and getting stronger, but we have to be different."

He stated 76 percent of the Lee County community reads the local daily newspaper either online or in print. The biggest difference is that a good percentage of readers seek online sources for their breaking news and overall information.

"We are changing our philosophy of what goes in print and what goes online. Fifty percent of people who live in this community read us online, but they also read us three or four times a week in print. So, they are coming back more often and more often," said Eberle.

In the past four months, his staff reached out to people in the community to ask them about their interests and makeup of their lives. Results were different between full-time and part-time residents.

The market groups were broken down into the "gladly gated," "simply retired" and "pay me in sunshine" segments. The community was identified as an age 50-plus market overall.

Environmental issues appear to be one of the leading focuses what people want to read about.

"But they really want to keep what we have. They really don't want growth to take over like it did on the east coast of (Florida)," said Eberle, whose writers will center on "protecting paradise" stories involving boating, fishing, beach erosion and clean water.

"It was an eye-opener for us that we needed to put more people on that."

The issue of causes is a second leading focus his staff will work on.

"People care. We need to tape into that. We are going to move a reporter into that position to really get into and talk about what people are caring about," said Eberle.

Socializing is another focus his writers will address.

"We dine out a lot. People want to know what their chef has in his cabinet and cooks with. Everyone is fascinated about food. We want to write about not only reviews but profiles of people that cook," said Eberle.

Health and the quality of life will be looked into as well.

"We are not an aging population like our parents and grandparents," he said. "(Older people) realize that age is coming, but they are going to live it to the end and not accept it."

Small business is yet another area being analyzed and written about.

"We have to concentrate our coverage on what you all do, how do you survive during these tough times and what have you done differently," said Eberle. "We all change. We are constantly changing to survive."

The award-winning editor summed up his staff's future assignments as a foundation of "watchdog journalism," where writers are responsible for informing readers about various issues at meetings they do not want to take the time to attend, but need to understand because they are vitally important to know.

"We are trying not to make judgments and write (stories) in a way that is saying we are in favor or against it," said Eberle. "We are moving towards this new model and are trying to become more engaged by putting a lot more things online. This whole social media thing is what we are trying to figure out."

 
 

 

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