Men's Breakfast Report, December 2013
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, December 14th with Yvonne Mintz, managing editor of The Facts. Yvonne first became interested in journalism in seventh grade when she was asked to write a newspaper article for a class assignment. She studied journalism in college and was hired as a reporter for The Facts. She was promoted to managing editor in 2004. She is married with two children.
The Facts is a community newspaper serving southern Brazoria County. It is owned by a corporation that also owns several other community newspapers in the southern states. As a community newspaper, it concentrates on local news. National and international news is relegated to an inner page, unless it is of major importance. The Facts does not try to compete with the Houston Chronicle or national news magazines.
A former member of the breakfast group told about how The Facts tried to get significant presence in the northern part of the county so that it could be considered a regional paper and be eligible for national advertising. Yvonne said that this strategy has been abandoned and that The Facts is concentrating on the southern part of the county. If any expansion is to take place it will be to the west in the Sargent area. Pearland and the northern part of the county is a difficult problem for a newspaper. The residents there think of themselves as being part of Houston and have little interest in the local government. This is partially due to the fact that there is no local newspaper to maintain awareness of the community. Unfortunately, without a sense of community a local newspaper cannot survive. Yvonne wanted to try starting a Pearland edition but was turned down by the publisher since it would likely be unprofitable.
Since Brazosport is a collection of several cities, it is difficult for the paper to cover all the city council and other governing board meetings with only four reporters. Yvonne said that she would appreciate being informed if any of us know that a meeting is likely to be especially important.
The Facts has been considered to be a training ground for journalists. Journalism graduates from universities would come to work for The Facts right out of college and after a few years of experience would be recruited by a big city paper. This has not happened much over the last few years because of the shrinkage of the big city papers. However, the newspaper business is starting to recover and big papers are starting to hire again. Yvonne was recently offered a job as managing editor at a larger paper, but she decided to remain here because of family and because she liked the position she was in.
Newspapers are being stressed by competition from the Internet. The Facts has recently put most of its content behind a paywall. Important breaking news is still available for free, but goes behind the paywall soon afterward. There is discussion about what should be behind the paywall. Obituaries are behind the paywall even though the family of the deceased has to pay for them. However, The Facts offers a one-day subscription for 99 cents so that a family member can cheaply access the obituary and print it out for family records.
The men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. The next meeting will be January 11.
The treatment of death penalty cases was raised at the group. At present, a death penalty case is an expensive circus for the benefit of the criminal and the district attorney. The criminal, who otherwise would get mentioned only in the grand jury indictments, gets his picture on the front page of the paper and extensive mention in the associated article. The district attorney also gets her picture on the front page and extensive publicity in the article. This publicity is invaluable for an elected official who can use all the free publicity at the next election. It was suggested that the circus atmosphere could be mitigated if the paper would make some minor changes in policy. First, no pictures of the defendant or the district attorney should be run in any article about the case. Second, the district attorney should be referred to only by title, not name in the article. Yvonne said that the pictures are partly design elements to break up the column. She also said that The Facts is careful about attributing statements to proper sources, so the name has to be connected to the title.