“Hey, Dotty! How are ya?”
I think I’ve heard that phrase more than any other since I moved here a year ago.
The “Dotty” in question is Dotty Martin, editor of The Times Leader’s Community News Group. Dotty has been my right arm in attending community events, from meeting with Leadership Wilkes-Barre students about getting out their media messages to being my co-“celebrity” bartender at a fundraiser at Cork for the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association.
Wherever we go, somebody knows Dotty. She’s introduced me to quite literally hundreds of people in a very short amount of time.
Having worked with Dotty closely over the past six months, it’s easy to see why she has such fan appeal. A Wyoming Valley native, Dotty is razor-sharp, quick-witted and extremely hardworking. The tremendous value she brings to our organization and our readers was obvious at our first meeting.
Dotty has three decades of experience in the business, and her passion is community news. An English professor at Luzerne County Community College, Dotty also excels at mentoring our reporters and grooming talent.
When I arrived, Dotty was editor of The Dallas Post. She had been given some oversight of our other community news properties — The Sunday Dispatch in Pittston, The Abington Journal in Clarks Summit and GoLackawanna.com in Scranton — but our organizational chart more closely resembled a spiderweb than anything with clear lines.
Dotty helped me establish what is now The Times Leader’s Community News Group, which consists of our three weekly newspapers, their websites and GoLackawanna.com. In just a short time, Dotty helped me implement new procedures and policies that take the burdens of management and production away from our journalists, allowing them to focus on content.
That’s an important distinction about how we do business now versus a year ago. Our transition from being primarily a “newspaper” into a “news company” has meant so much of what we do has changed. At first blush, it would be easy to dismiss all of our changes as bad. Yet there’s a method to our madness, and Dotty sees that.
The Dispatch provides a great example of that. A year ago, our team of four in the Pittston office juggled writing, editing, copy editing, page design and post-production work. Now, our journalists do two things: write and edit. Many hours of work that had been spent laying out pages are now being spent telling stories.
What many people have viewed as a loss of local control has had a singular effect: a better local news organization.
Among the metrics I keep are byline counts, story counts and dateline counts. The first measures how many stories a reporter writes, the second measures how many stories we have in an issue of the newspaper of a 24-hour period online, and the third measures how many stories come from each community. All are up significantly from six months ago.
Our opinion page has local editorials nearly every day. Our features sections, whose covers had often been filled with stories from places outside the Wyoming Valley, feature all-local stories and columns every day. Our beautiful photography appears in a new quarterly section called TL Photo. We’re making plans now to improve our sports section similarly.
With journalists like Dotty helping me lead the charge, I’m excited about what our future holds. Now that so many of our transitions are behind us, and as the “new” becomes normal, we’re settling into a really good place here.