COL New plans for P-B content

Next month we're planning a raft of new and improved content throughout the newspaper that we're hoping you enjoy.

Beginning the week of Sept. 22, we'll introduce a new column in City/Region, launch some new features of special interest to young people in Teen Beat, turn the key on a new page of auto-related news and features, and add new columns to the sports pages.

Without spilling the beans entirely, I'll tell you that interactivity with readers is one of the main things we're after. In both Teen Beat and Sports, we'll offer Sound Off-type columns where readers can post their comments on anything and everything, both in print and online.

We'll begin the same type of feature –; the print equivalent of talk radio and water-cooler chat –; in at least one other section of the newspaper later this year.

I'll tell you more about what's ahead in this column before late September. For now, just file it away that we'll have a lot of new stuff for you to check out after school starts.


THE ETHICS OF POP: I got an artful, wall-sized collage in the mail last week from Bill Plummer, a retired IBM engineer who was a member of our first Reader Feedback Group, which wrapped up in May.

Bill has a number of issues that he's passionate about –; the national debt and the solvency of the Social Security program are two of them. He's also passionate about the quality of his local newspaper, and ways in which he thinks we can improve.

The collage he put together was an array of Post-Bulletin grocery ads selling pizza and soda pop. Bill noted recent stories on obesity and junk food "and decided one day to track how many ads were in the Post-Bulletin in one week for just soda and pizza."

The total for the week of Aug. 3-9, according to Plummer: 24 ads for pop, 12 for pizza.

He concluded: "During this week came your editorial on the (Rochester) school board decision on pop machines in the schools noting the conflict between what is the principled action of banning soda and the financial pressure to accept the Pepsi bid. Looks like they are not the only one with that conflict."

Well, it's an interesting point. The P-B, like many papers, doesn't accept ads from tobacco companies. We also reserve the right to reject ads that we (and most people) would consider racist, libelous, defamatory, X-rated, promoting criminal activity or in other ways scurrilous.

In major metro papers, the issue is often sex ads -- many papers won't take ads from escort services, massage parlors and other businesses that often serve as fronts for prostitution.

But soda pop? Though the P-B's editorial page opinion is that the school board shouldn't sign a contract with companies to give them exclusive rights to sell pop in schools, that doesn't mean the P-B thinks pop should be illegal or that advertising pop is improper.


Contrary to the diet police in town -- and I'd include my father-in-law in that group -- many of us in the newsroom enjoy at least a few cans of pop a day.

Does that present a conflict of interest? I suppose you can take an extreme view on just about every human conduct. In this case, you could argue that the P-B's editorial position on the pop-in-schools issue is fairly principled in that it's not affected by advertisers.

In any case, thanks for the wallpaper, Bill.

COURT REPORTING: The criminal court charges and dispositions that we publish virtually every day in the City/Region section represent a major commitment to the public's right to know. This information is maddeningly difficult to report, edit and publish, and we have newsroom guidelines for helping us maintain accuracy, consistency and fairness in what we publish.

We publish thousands of charges and dispositions every year; our goal is to treat everyone who goes through the court process in a fair and consistent way. We could publish far more information on all these cases than we do, and we have guidelines for minimum fine levels to determine which petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses we publish.

Earlier this year we began including ticketed petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses for people ages 16-18. These are for offenses -- generally traffic tickets, often for speeding -- that don't require court hearings and are handled in adult court. As long as they meet the minimum fine level of $200, which is our newsroom guideline, we report them -- and we report all of them, regardless of circumstance.

The Olmsted County clerk of court's office reports all such offenses in a batch and state law doesn't withhold the identity of people ages 16-18.

We think it's appropriate to publish that information -- if a 17-year-old gets a $250 ticket for driving 25 mph over the limit, we think that's worth publishing, no less than if a Mayo doctor or a Post-Bulletin employee does it.


Again, these are newsroom guidelines that help us maintain accuracy and consistency. The courts provide far more information than is possible for us to publish, but it's all available to the public (and to newspapers) as part of our right to know what government is up to.

Furst is the Post-Bulletin's managing editor. If you have questions or comments, call him at 285-7742 or send e-mail to

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