Why the Observer isn't a traditional newspaper
The Heights Observer’s strength—and its greatest weakness—is the way we come by the information that fills its pages. Every word is an unpaid contribution, uploaded directly to our publishing system by people from the CH-UH area we serve.
It’s a strength because it results in a publication people recognize as strongly reflecting the community. It’s a weakness because we can’t operate the way a traditional newspaper would—assigning reporters to cover important issues and events. There are a lot of goings-on people need or want to know about that we never publish, simply because nobody stepped up to gather the information and write an article. And unless someone comes forward with a seven-figure endowment, it’s not likely to change.
That’s because the news business isn’t the same as it used to be. Across the nation, one out of four newspapers have shut down since 2005. The trend is expected to continue, and those that remain employ fewer reporters to gather information.
During the 2008 recession, if we had tried to launch the Heights Observer on the traditional newspapering model, we wouldn't have found the money to get it off the ground, and it couldn't have survived the loss in revenue during the pandemic. We're glad to have a financially viable operating model, and our focus is on working within the constraints it imposes.
We regularly get calls or e-mails from people who want to direct us to stories that deserve coverage. Our answer is consistent: If there’s something you believe should be in the paper, please put it together and submit it to our member center at heightsobserver.org.
We know the idea of gathering facts and organizing them into an article is daunting for a lot of people. It can seem scary if you don't do it regularly. But it’s not rocket science either, and my experience is that with a little direction most people are able to put together an informative article.
Back when the paper was new, we offered a series of workshops on how to report and write for the Heights Observer. We ran them until the attendance tapered off, at which point we figured we had reached the people who were interested. But a decade has passed, and maybe it’s time to pick up the trainings again. At this point, we could offer them online. If you’d be interested in attending, please let me know by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please don’t lose sight of the important fact that the Heights Observer exists to serve the community, and it’s only as good as the articles the community provides.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.