Public Editor

Readers debate tallies, stats, data in print

Frequent readers of this column know that an ongoing theme for many years has been what The Kansas City Star chooses to publish in its print edition, versus what runs exclusively on its website KansasCity.com.

Most newsrooms that work on both paper and online products follow a similar philosophy these days: Tailor your products to their strengths.

For better or for worse (and likely it’s more in the worse column if you’re a print aficionado), we know that the overall reading audience in 2015 has switched to electronic sources for what the digital world does best.

And the online world is far and away the best way to get small facts and figures. The vast majority of people who own stocks, for example, have been tracking their values electronically for years. There is no clearer definition of “yesterday’s news” than a stock quote printed in a morning newspaper.

Another casualty is the long list of box scores that appeared in the paper for many years. Since The Star began eliminating these tables in Sports Daily over the past year or so, I have heard a steady trickle of objections — some quite strong.

“Yes, I have an Android (phone) and I know I can get my scores there,” said one caller last week. “But I miss the fun of looking at them all side by side, and it isn’t the same working out my fantasy leagues.

“I know you have to go where your audience goes, and I know I’m a dinosaur. But put me down in the stubborn column. I want everything in print. I want the Internet turned off sometimes.”

There are times when even those readers who are highly connected digitally want The Star to do the legwork for them. A caller last Thursday echoed a compliment that I heard many times that day.

“I thought I was seeing things when I was reading the article ‘House OKs budget deal,’” she said. “I had come to accept that The Star wasn’t ever going to print a ‘How They Voted’ box again so we could keep track of how our local politicians were representing us. But lo and behold, there it was. Please tell me it will continue with future articles.”

I’ve long agreed with readers who say that these boxes have high utility. They don’t require many newsroom resources to compile, but they convey important information quickly and succinctly.

I asked The Star’s editor Mike Fannin if readers can expect to see “How They Voted” more often in the future. He replied that the editing team will try to run the boxes with stories about important legislation. Fans of the printed edition will be happy to see that.

The Royals’ postseason run has really hammered home to me how much gravitas people perceive in the physical paper. As popular as the game reports, columns and photos have been on the website, the demand for copies of the same content on newsprint has been higher than I can recall. I’ve never helped more people track down single copy sales locations than I have over the past two weeks.

I was amused at a tweet I saw a few weeks ago from a high school student who was thrilled to have been pictured in the print edition.

It just seemed more “real” to see it in the paper, he wrote. That’s a powerful sentiment coming from a digital nativist, someone who has never known a world without the Internet.

There is plenty of room for both print and online to exist side by side, but it’s clear that readers perceive the same content differently depending on where they see it.

Derek Donovan: 816-234-4487 weekday mornings, @KCStarPublic, publiceditor@kcstar.com

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