Getting to know you over coffee

CDT Publisher Debra Leithauser
CDT Publisher Debra Leithauser

I had the chance to share a cup of coffee with a few readers a week or so ago.

It was illuminating — helpful and hopeful, rewarding and reaffirming.

They were all loyal Centre Daily Times readers who responded to my column late last year, when I announced that a new team was leading the CDT and we wanted to connect with readers firsthand.

I asked any reader who wanted to discuss journalism and the paper’s role in Centre County to drop me a line. Many did, and while they all couldn’t make the first coffee chat, a small group did.

They met me, along with Executive Editor John Boogert, at New Leaf, a terrific spot on South Allen Street filled with entrepreneurs and bustling with activity. It was an ideal place for our discussion.

John and I had no agenda except to listen. And learn.

We heard that we cover Penn State too much. That while local news is the most important reason these readers turn to the CDT, they also want to know what’s going on internationally and nationally too. One of them particularly liked Breakfast Briefing, where we quickly tell readers tidbits of news from around the globe.

Several of the readers liked to share their articles with friends — the old-fashioned way, through clipping and sending the stories in the mail. Some of those we met with read us only in print, while others read us in multiple ways — online, in print, on Facebook and elsewhere. We said we didn’t care where they read us — only that they read us and helped support the journalism we do.

The readers seemed to enjoy hearing about how we — along with most media companies — are serving readers and advertisers in print, online and beyond. They seemed aware of the challenges all media are facing, and also seemed to enjoy hearing how we’re changing to meet readers on whatever platform they prefer — smartphones, tablets, printed papers, desktops and beyond. It was news to them that we’re ahead of the pack when it comes to digital advertising. (I’ll talk more about that in a future column.)

This group of readers liked business coverage, which was good to hear because that was an area John had already decided to focus on as he leads the newsroom forward. In fact, we recently started offering expanded coverage of local business in our Sunday Good Life section. Look for it tomorrow.

John also plans to add more analysis in the paper to help readers gain perspective on big topics, such as the one Lori Falce recently did with her overview of all the various legal cases that resulted from the Jerry Sandusky case. The readers said those were the kinds of stories they definitely wanted more of.

They also wanted more follow-up pieces, to close the loop on stories we report but then don’t return to. Fair point. We’ll try to do better on following up — and if we don’t, please drop us a line.

They made good points that we need to push our staff to ask “Why?” and “How?” more often as we report stories. They want us to ask for — even demand — transparency from leaders and organizations of all kinds. It’s our job as journalists to do just that, and we’ll strive to do it more.

I’d say the coffee meeting — and this column — are a good start at being transparent with all of you. Thanks for reading.

Connect with us

It’s not too late to sign up for a future coffee chat. Just email us at advisorypanel@centredaily.com, and put “coffee” in the subject line. As a reminder: We’ve also created a Reader Advisory Panel. By joining the panel — which you can do online at http://goo.gl/forms/6rYbXml1Dy — you’ll be able to tell us what you think about the CDT and help us understand the coverage issues that interest you. From time to time, you’ll be invited to participate in an online survey, emailed a single question, or invited to come into the CDT for small discussion groups on a specific topic.