You’re holding treasure in your hands, right now

Right now, you’re gazing upon treasure.

Whether you’re reading this in our still-strong print product (a miracle in and of itself, in this business), on our app on your smartphone, or on your desktop or tablet, you’re gazing upon treasure.

That’s what a newspaper is, what a local newspaper really is, what this local newspaper especially is. Treasure.

In the dozen-plus years I’ve been in this awful, wonderful, frustrating, exciting business, I have always approached every story, photo, brief — even tweet — through the prism that journalism done well accomplishes two things:

First, it gives today’s readers the information they need to understand the world around them, arms them with the information they need to decide how to vote, where to shop, where to send their kids to school.

Second, it writes history in real time. A century from now, when Alpena High School students want to understand what their community was like in 2018, there will be scant resources for them except for the archives of The News we create today.

Both of those things demand fairness, accuracy and depth.

Now, as managing editor, that’s the prism through which I ask my reporters to look with every story they write. When we pull it off — which I would argue happens most every day — that’s how we create treasure.

But what makes The Alpena News even more valuable is its deep, strong ties to the community it covers. In the tough business climate in which todays’ newspapers operate, too many have been forced to shrink newsrooms and ad shops and everything else and to pull back from the special tabs and sponsorships and everything else they once did.

The News has not been immune to those ugly trends, but it still does so many things that so many other newspapers have been forced to abandon. I love that readers stop into the newsroom to drop off photos and press releases and letters to the editor.

And that makes it a treasure.

As your managing editor, I vow to helm this good ship like the treasure it is.

But that doesn’t mean I or anyone who works for me is perfect.

In Thursday’s paper, a not-particularly-busy day for local news, your seven contributing News reporters were responsible for 6,320 words of copy, not including headlines, bylines, taglines, or photo captions. That also doesn’t include the thousands of words in the special-edition football preview tucked into Thursday’s paper, or the numerous articles we carried from the Associated Press and other wire services.

Given that the average novel is somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 words, it’s safe to assume your Alpena News writers collectively write, and your Alpena News editors collectively edit, a novel every 10 to 20 days. Even the almost laughably prolific Stephen King took eight months between his last two novels. That’s why they call journalism “literature in a hurry.”

So that’s a reason — though I’d never say it’s an excuse — that mistakes will happen. There may be typos or misspelled words, despite our best efforts. And I may make a decision late on a Tuesday night I’d make differently early on a Wednesday.

But, because we are a part of this community, you deserve an explanation for every one of those decisions.

And that’s what I’d like to use this weekly space for: To tell you why we make the decisions that we make, how we pull stories together the way that we do. I want to open up the sausage factory that is daily newspapering, and hopefully help you understand why newspapers are also called “the daily miracle.”

My contact information will always be below this column (as well as at the top of every day’s commentary page). Send me your questions, tell me what you’ve always wondered about newspapering, and we’ll talk it out together, right here, every week.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at jhinkley@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5686. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.