Opening up the Observer

Bob Rosenbaum

The good news is the bad news: The Observer now receives many more contributions each month than the print edition can hold.

Until now, that situation has been handled by trying to prioritize the importance of each submission, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that they’re all important. And editors are instructed to cut large portions from dozens of stories to fit the available space.

Such cutting has been a necessary evil as contributions have continued to multiply, but it isn’t an acceptable long-term approach. It’s tough on the writers, who feel their hard work is being disrespected; it’s tough on the editors, because cutting stories by half or two-thirds is difficult and unpleasant. It’s also tough on the readers and the story subjects, because the nuance of the information can get lost.

So, the Observer is now adopting a Web-first publishing strategy. Here's what that means:

  • We still want to publish all of your articles so keep sending them!
  • Instead of waiting for a monthly copy deadline, we are encouraging people to submit their articles at any time during the month.
  • We are assigning stories to editors on a rolling basis—as the work comes in.
  • All articles will be published online first, generally within a few days of submission.
  • Every article that runs online will automatically be considered for publication in the next printed edition of the Heights Observer.

This does not mean that long articles will run in their entirety. Whether online or in print, the Observer enforces rules about story length (generally 300-500 words, but detailed at under the Policies menu). These policies are based on a desire to deliver variety and to be considerate of our readers’ time, and the fact—to loosely paraphrase Mark Twain—that it is easier to write a long and winding story than one that is concise and compelling.

By making this change, we hope to maintain the satisfaction of our volunteer writers and editors, and to increase use of the website as a timely source of community news.

Bob Rosenbaum is a longtime journalist and publishing executive. As chairman of the FutureHeights Observer committee, he writes this column to provide transparency and understanding about the Observer. Send questions to

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Read More on Opening the Observer
Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:18 PM, 04.25.2010