by Phyllis Goodman
So claims Lois Kazakoff, deputy editorial page and commentary editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kazakoff spoke at the January 24 San Francisco Public Relations Round Table meeting, where she cited figures to support that statement. For example:
- The New York Times has recently added 200,000 subscribers.
- The Washington Post has hired dozens of new reporters.
- The San Francisco Chronicle posted an ad for a new editorial writer, which resulted in more applicants than it had ever received for any job.
- The Chronicle also has accrued 100,000 new sales leads for subscriptions in recent days.
Though the new administration is seizing headlines, Kazakoff emphasized that the Chronicle is a local and regional newspaper. The editorial page will continue to focus on issues that affect California — primarily San Francisco and the Bay Area.
In selecting items to run on the Commentary page, Kazakoff looks for three elements:
- Why would readers care?
- What does the reader need to know to understand this issue?
- What can the reader do to engage with this issue?
The key metric at the Chronicle is the degree to which a story or editorial engages with the reader. That was the driver behind their 2016 voter’s guide, which readers combed through to understand the 40 ballot issues coming up last November.
While she has been inundated with commentaries in the lead-up to and aftermath of the election, she’s still looking for good submissions. Weekday “Open Forum” pieces tend to be shorter, while weekend “Insight” pieces tend to be longer.
As with any news or commentary, the piece should focus on a real human being to show how the issue affects people. Tell a story, she advises, and give concrete suggestions for what the reader can do, such as vote, march, or other actions.
“Don’t just bring the reader to the edge of the river,” she noted. “Get the reader to walk right into the river.”