By DIANE R. CHODAN
I recently received a phone message from a woman who wanted me to publicize a dinner for a community organization. She called early in the morning. Her message said the dinner would be the next day and she wondered if I could "get it in the paper." She was fairly clear with the information about the event, but although I listened to the message five times, I could only hear six out of the seven numbers in her phone number. She did not leave a last name, so I couldn't look it up in the phone book. I couldn't publish the event in the community calendar since the calendar had already gone to print for that day. I might have been able to get a notice in the community notebook, but I couldn't reach her to ask a few questions.
I like my job as Lifestyles Editor for the OBSERVER because I honestly think that the events and people in our area are interesting and worthy of attention. Because the community calendar and lifestyles news is now my job, I am learning what it takes to prepare these for publication.
In this column, I am sharing some of the challenges of editing these pages and providing some suggestions so those who submit information can help me put together an accurate and useful product. I simply can't do my job well without help and cooperation from those who contribute information.
The first rule is the earlier the information comes in the better. That holds true if it is something as simple as an item for the community calendar or something more complicated like a lifestyles story. Please don't call and ask for something to be put in the next day's paper or for me to come out and do a story that is happening tomorrow. Lifestyles is not about breaking news or emergencies.
Nearly every day the printed community calendar carries the following information. "Community calendar notices must be received in writing five business days prior to the event and will be printed for three consecutive days, including the day of the event. Coming events are published on a space available basis only when prior reservations are required."
Yes, I am serious about five days. It's a must for the calendar so an item can run for three days. Some parts of the newspaper are prepared ahead of time. The calendar is one of them.
The second rule is that information must be in writing. We honestly want to receive these items, so there are several ways to submit them.
We accept written information in person during the day. Information can be either handwritten or typed but the text must be legible. Those whose handwriting is hard to read should consider printing crucial information, like names.
The OBSERVER building is located at 10 East Second St. in Dunkirk. It is open from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday. There is a drop box in the door on Second Street for after hours submissions. Our mailing address is 10 E. Second St. P.O. Box 391. Dunkirk, NY 14048.
The information can be submitted electronically in two ways. One is through our website at www.observertoday.com. On the top of the page is a "contact us" tab. Click that. When that page comes up, click on Living which is located on the left side of the page. That leads to the living pages. On the left of that page, click on SUBMIT lifestyles which will then display the usual types of items covered by lifestyles.
Another option is to send information directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The advantage of an electronic submission is it can be cut and pasted into a new document and save the lifestyles assistant the time taken up for typing. (Honestly, she does have other things to do.) It will also be more likely that the information will match what you submit. (If we cut and paste the name, for example, it will be as you spelled it.)
No matter which way you choose to make contact, check your submission. Make sure the information is complete and correct. Check over the phone numbers, spelling of names, dates and time of an event and cost. If information is incorrect, the OBSERVER gets blamed. Obviously I make mistakes, but I was surprised at the number of corrections we make for items that haven't been submitted correctly.
If submitting a picture, identify the people by name from left to right. Pictures, like written information, may be brought into the office or submitted electronically. Self-addressed stamped envelopes or coming back to the office are necessary if a contributor wants a picture returned. Tell us if a return is wanted.
Sometimes people find errors after submitting an item. By all means, let us know. However, understand it can be challenging to make the correction because the item may have gone to more than one place. I often share items with local news or local business or also run it in religion briefs to provide better publicity for the organization. It is difficult and time consuming to go back and try to find the notice in all the places it has been distributed. Better to get it right the first time.
Some organizations have more than one person handling publicity. I have received items from two different people for the same event. That means our work is doubled but it doesn't cause errors if the information is the same. Unfortunately, sometimes that's not the case. For example, I received two notices for the same church dinner. Two different prices were given.
Most days there are more than 50 items in the community calendar. There are many, many organizations that submit information. I can't remember each specific item, so if something needs correction, contact me as soon as possible by email or on the telephone at 366-3000 extension 482. Tell me what the item is and on which date and page it appeared. Give me the information needed to correct it.
No matter how information is submitted always include a first and last name and a telephone number in case we need more information or clarification.
While a group can ask for a specific date for an item to be published, I never promise publication on a specific date. I also won't promise where in the paper an item will run. Please don't ask me to call back when an item has run. With the number of messages I receive and people I see daily, I don't remember everything in the paper. I just can't take the time to look it up for everyone.
Many times I edit an item so that it fits into space available. If a lengthy article is submitted, without editing I may not be able to run it at all.
I am normally in my office from Monday to Friday. The core hours I work are 10:30 a.m to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. I think this way people who need to contact me later in the day can do so. Remember, the office doors are locked at 5 p.m. I don't promise to be glued to my desk during these hours, and I don't promise I will always be there. (Emergencies happen to me too and sometimes I do go out to do reporting or photography.)
Call first if making a trip in. I genuinely enjoy meeting the people in my community and I am serious about doing the best job possible.