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Inviting you into our circle

I just returned from a company conference that was held at a casino in Sparks, Nev. And in the truest and grandest tradition of newspapering, it was almost all work. As a result, I didn’t have the opportunity to contribute to the casino’s immense bottom line, and for that I am thankful.

The primary topic discussed by the publishers and editors of Swift Newspaper Inc. was the future of our business. While the circulation of The Union has grown steadily and crept above the 17,000 mark in two of the past three months, the news is not so rosy for many other newspapers. The largest dailies in particular are suffering circulation losses.

The discussions centered around how we can make our newspapers more relevant, more useful and more open or transparent to the readers. As a consequence, The Union is looking to the Internet to improve our dialogue with readers. This will not serve as a substitute for letters to the editor or even for picking up a phone to call me or anyone else on the staff. What we want to do is knock down the walls and create a partnership with the people in this area who want to help shape their news product.

I’ve already had preliminary discussions with City Editor David Griner, Web Editor Kady Guyton and Copy Desk Chief Ross Maak about how to undertake this exciting challenge. Some ideas are already taking shape.

– First, we’re going to use The Union Reader Circle more often. Now, 173 people belong to this e-mail group, but we’d like to see it grow. We’re going to ask members for reactions to our coverage, to help us find sources for stories and even to help us make editorial decisions when we are discussing controversial or complicated issues.

If you’d like to join the Readers Circle, visit on our site. It won’t take you more than a moment, and many returns can be expected for your effort.

– We also plan to introduce blogs, or web logs, in the very near future. I hope to start mine next week. It will be my chance to tell you more about the decisions an editor faces, share feedback from readers and discuss more fully what we are trying to do here. I expect other newspaper employees will soon follow with their own blogs.

– In addition, we want to provide space for community bloggers. We still need to hammer out the details on how we’re going to implement this, but Kady is working on that now and tells me that we should be ready to go soon. If you’re interested in having your blog posted on our Web site or want to start one, e-mail

– We also want to give readers a chance to comment on each story at our Web site. That’s something we’ll be working on next week.

In addition to the more than 17,000 people who buy our newspaper each day it is published, our Web site attracts more than 4,000 different viewers each day. By taking greater advantage of the Web’s capabilities to provide instant feedback, we’re hoping to make the newspaper an even better fit for western Nevada County.

We’ll be busy over the next few weeks formulating our plans for enhanced interactivity with our readers. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them and ask that you send them to my e-mail address, which appears at the end of this column.


I plan to be at the Home and Garden show today at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. If you’d like to discuss anything concerning the newspaper, you can find me from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in The Union’s booth at the main exhibit hall. I hear it’s a great show, so you’ll probably want to plan to spend a couple hours there.


Pat Butler is the editor of The Union. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 477-4235.