October issues often look ahead to November
The Heights Observer is a monthly publication; as such, the content of any given issue primarily focuses on the current month. One occasional exception to that unwritten rule is the October issue.
In those election years when local issues and candidates are on Cleveland Heights and University Heights ballots, the October edition of the Heights Observer looks ahead to early November, when Heights residents will vote, and publishes a voters guide.
In the Heights Observer’s inaugural year, 2008, the October issue contained some political commentary and feature stories, but much, if not all, focused on the presidential race.
In October 2009, the Heights Observer published its “first local election issue.” Inside, approximately 7 of the issue’s 24 pages were dedicated to profiles of candidates—for UH Mayor, UH City Council, CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), and CH City Council. Each candidate answered one question posed by FutureHeights (the nonprofit Heights-based organization that publishes the Heights Observer), and one question of the candidate’s choice. The questions, in many cases, varied from one candidate to another.
That first election issue included a calendar listing of local election-related events—a Heights Observer and League of Women Voters (LWV) Candidates Night, as well as panel discussions, debates, and town hall meetings with the candidates.
In October 2010, making an exception to its mission of covering exclusively Cleveland Heights and University Heights news, the Heights Observer published a voter’s guide to candidates vying for positions on Cuyahoga County’s then-new charter government—County Executive and County Council Members (Districts 10 and 11).
By October 2011, the Heights Observer was back to its hyper-local focus, publishing—now in partnership with the Heights Chapter of the LWV—a voters guide to BOE and city council candidates, as well as state and local issues that would be on the CH and UH ballots—including a school levy. This time, candidates vying for the same position all answered the same five questions (questions 3–5 were published online only, for space reasons). The guide occupied 6 pages in a 28-page issue.
In 2013, the voters guide moved outside of the Heights Observer’s pages, becoming a special insert distributed with the issue. This has remained the model through 2015 and 2017, giving the guide a life of its own, so to speak, outside of the pages of the Observer. This has enabled its independent distribution at candidate forums and other election-themed events, and extended the guide's life beyond October, right up to Election Day.
While local election guides are occasional, semi-annual features produced by the Heights Observer and LWV, each month the paper publishes LWV reports of UH and CH city council, BOE, and library board meetings, written by LWV volunteer observers who attend them.
From its fourth issue on, the Heights Observer has been publishing LWV volunteer-written accounts of meetings. In July 2008, without fanfare, LWV notes for the May 5 and 19 meetings of CH City Council appeared in the Heights Observer. By the next month, an account of UH council meetings appeared as well, as did library board and BOE meeting highlights.
Despite their extra-small type, the Heights Observer views the LWV meeting notes, and the work of the LWV observers, as essential to covering what is happening in the Heights community.
Because the Heights Observer is reliant on volunteer writers—most of whom don't seem interested in writing about city government, unless they have an opinion about something that is happening—the LWV notes are often the only reporting in its pages of what our city and school representatives are doing.
By providing this essential reporting, the LWV Heights Chapter keeps readers informed about what our elected officials are doing to serve the community and its residents—both in election years, and every day.
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer, and is a Cuyahoga County master gardener volunteer.