Heights Observer readers weigh in
On April 10, the Heights Observer will be 10 years old. When we launched the newspaper 10 years ago, some thought we were crazy. Print was dead; everything should be online. Well, I don’t know about you, but even though I spend a fair amount of time in the digital world, I find the real one much more satisfying; and 10 years in, I enjoy seeing my neighbors holding the Heights Observer in their hands at the local coffee shop. It’s a fiscal affirmation that this community matters.
As we approached this 10-year milestone, we wanted to check in with our readers and find out how they thought we were doing. We conducted an online readers’ survey over several months in 2017, received 75 responses, and wanted to share them with you.
The mission of the Heights Observer is to serve as a self-sustaining media outlet that strengthens the communities of Cleveland Heights and University Heights, and we have specific goals related to that mission, such as being a catalyst for public discourse and being a resource for our local businesses. (You can find the entire list of goals on our website at: www.heightsobserver.org/read/about-us/mission-statement/.) Of the respondents, 78.6 percent said that we were meeting our goals, while 3.9 percent said goals were being met “only a little” or “not at all.” One comment on where we could do better was: “You seem to shy away from some of the more controversial discussions/issues, and most of your columnists are defenders of the status quo.” There’s one solution to that, and that’s more contributions from the community on controversial issues. Here’s how to submit an article: go to www.heightsobserver.org/read/how-to-contribute/. And, if you think you might like to take on the task of volunteering to write a monthly column, let’s talk. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many survey respondents said they read at least half of the print issue of the Heights Observer each month (41.3 percent), while 25.3 percent said they read it “from cover to cover” because it is “well written and gives better local information than other forms of media.” In addition, 69.3 percent of respondents said they “always” or “frequently” read the weekly e-news because it’s “a good quick scan” and “convenient and timely.” While some found the e-news format “easy to navigate,” several found it “doesn’t show up well on a smart phone” and “could look more professional.”
We use a program called Constant Contact to create the e-newsletter from content on the Heights Observer website, which is powered by technology that we license from the Lakewood Observer, which developed it. We are evaluating the e-news format to determine desired changes to it. Some readers would like us to enable reader comments after our stories on the website; however, this is not a feature that is available to us in the current Observer license.
The weakest part of the Heights Observer, according to respondents, is the photos that accompany stories. We agree, but, just as we don’t have a reporter on staff, we also don’t have a photographer. Luckily, with today’s smart phone technology, everyone carries a decent camera in their pockets. When you send us a story, please make sure that the photos you attach are in JPG format and at least 300 dpi. If this terminology sounds foreign to you, we can help. Give us a call at the FutureHeights office, 216-320-1423. We are typically in Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That said, if you are a photographer who would like to volunteer to help Heights Observer contributors, please let us know so that we can connect you.
Comments from the readers’ survey demonstrate the value some place on the paper: “The Observer is the most complete and timely print medium around for our community;” “It's the community's voice;” and “Democracy requires participation. The only way we can be effective citizens, however, is to be informed. The Heights Observer provides the local news stories that the larger Cleveland paper has abandoned. Consequently, the Heights Observer is an essential element of our democratic society in Cleveland Heights.”
We are pleased that many value our efforts, and remind readers that the Observer is YOUR paper. We'd love to publish more stories about the schools, about the north end of town, local sports—or any topic that you would like to write about. We acknowledge that most of the stories we receive—and therefore, print—skew to the left, so if you have a more conservative viewpoint and might be interested in writing an article or a column, let’s talk.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.