Each Monday, we will be profiling newsrooms big and small from across the GateHouse in our Newsroom Profile feature. If you'd like to have your newsroom profiled here, just fill out the Newsroom Profile Questionnaire.
|Newspaper name and location:||
Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.
Ron Johns, Managing Editor;
35,000 daily/43,000 Sunday
|Give us a short history of your newspaper:||
Our company traces its roots to the Utica Observer, a weekly founded by Eliasaph Dorchester in 1817. The Observer became a daily newspaper in 1848 and, after several mergers with other newspapers, became the Observer-Dispatch in 1922. That was also the year the paper was purchased by Frank E. Gannett, who founded the Gannett Company. Gannett owned the newspaper until 2007, when it was purchased by GateHouse Media. For a while, we published two daily papers – the Daily Press in the morning and the Observer-Dispatch in the afternoon, and those newspapers were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1959, for an investigation into local corruption. The two newspapers merged into a single, 7-day morning publication, the Observer-Dispatch, in 1987. Our company added digital delivery of news and information in January of 2000, when we launched uticaOD.com. In 2004, we grew again with the acquisition of the Mid York Weekly newspaper, serving Hamilton, N.Y., and two weekly Pennysaver publications.
|Tell us something unique about your community:||
Utica is host to the Boilermaker, a renowned road race that was established in 1978 by a local businessman. The 15K began with just over 800 runners and a budget of $750.
Today, the Boilermaker 15K road race hosts more than 10,000 runners per year and attracts elite runners from all over the world, including Olympians and world record holders. Boilermaker Weekend includes fitness and special events, such as a 5K Run, a 3 mile walk, a youth run, an invitational mile, Kids' Olympics, a health and fitness expo., and more. Plus, it ends at another local business, the F.X. Matt Brewing Company!
|Do you have any quirky or fun newsroom traditions? Any mascots? What's your newsroom snack of choice?||
One sweet newsroom tradition: Candy sales. There is always a box of snacks on a table in the newsroom with a mug of change (and sometimes an IOU list). It’s a year-round effort by the newsroom administrator that benefits a cause near and dear to her heart — The American Heart Association. Her niece, Victoria, was born with a serious heart defect and it’s because of heart research that she’s alive. Through the years, many members of the Observer-Dispatch have participated on Team Victoria in the annual Heart Run and Walk, one of the largest events of its kind in the nation. Newsroom folks like to eat, so now they can eat for a good cause!
|What has your newsroom accomplished in the past year that you are most proud of? What was your biggest story of the year?||
The newsroom sent sports reporter Anne Delaney to cover the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, as we rallied around one of our own. Remsen native Erin Hamlin, who won the Luge World Championship two years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., went up against the world's best in February. She was expected to be a medal contender in her second Winter Olympics, but in the end, Hamlin finished a disappointing 16th, her worst finish in more than a year. Special coverage leading up to the event was continued with tweets, stories, columns and photos of the action and atmosphere. Hamlin's frustrating final placement also led to a different take on follow-up coverage as we gave readers a view of a top athlete experiencing disappointment, but also the determination to get back on top.
|What new initiatives does your newspaper have planned this year? (Is there a new feature, special section or big story you want to tackle?)||
We recently completed staff retreats and discussions focused on our strategic plans for 2011. One goal is to better differentiate the content we present in print and online, to better reflect audience expectations in each platform. Last month, the staff evaluated what is special to our area and what our local readers care about most (acknowledging, for example, that newspaper readers everywhere care about government, crime, education, etc.). We have a small staff and need to spend our energies wisely, so the idea was to focus on topics that we thought would have the most resonance with local people. What do our readers care about here more than they do in other parts of the country?
|How about anything else you’d like to share?||
Freebies and promotional items once stowed away by reporters and editors have been put to much better use by the newsroom — and best of all, it involves all Observer-Dispatch employees.