Why put national sports and news on SR.com?

Question: I think spokesmanreview.com's approach is all wrong with regard to local issues. A medium-sized city like Spokane needs a Web site focusing on local events (news, high school sports, etc.) Let me ask a couple of questions:

1. Do you think Internet users are more likely to get national news from spokesmanreview.com or CNN, MSN or some other large news org. How about sports -- ESPN.com or spokesmanreview.com?

2. Wouldn't it be better to concentrate on solving a customer need that you alone can solve (in-depth local sports coverage, for example) instead of filling your sports section with links to AP wire stories on the All-Star game, etc.?

I'm not saying you shouldn't provide links or access to national stories, but in my opinion you are doing a terrible job reporting on local news -- especially sports news when that should be your strength. It's the one thing you can offer that ESPN.com or CNN can't!

Answer: We post every local story that was in the printed edition of the S-R every day. In addition, we have several local news data bases that go beyond the print publication -- things like obits, births, and high school sports schedules and results. We also have 16 local online-only columnists, or bloggers. Right now are working on a sports cover page redesign that will highlight all of the stuff you're talking about.

I believe you might be most concerned about our packaging of those stories, and how wire stories seem to get prominent display on our Web site right now. That is true. For example, on many days the Associated Press provides us "dynamic" news content throughout the day. We know people will go to national news outlets for the national news. But we also know they have to come to us for local news. So if they can get a dose of national news while they're here, then maybe some people will visit fewer of the national news sources because we also can fulfill that need for them.

Having said that, our main mission is to increase the amount of fresh, timely, breaking local news in all sections of the online paper, and highlight local news throughout. So I don't think we're in disagreement here. But building a Web site involves a series of steps, and we just installed a new computer system that will enable us to do much of what you suggest. We're nowhere near being finished. We hope you're patient and stick with the site as improvements are made regularly. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

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