Managing the onrushing flow of information

Published 4:17 pm Monday, March 1, 2004

By Staff
Arthur McLean Managing Editor
Running a community newspaper can be at turns exciting, trying, frustrating and rewarding.
One of the constant issues at any newspaper is the constant flow of information.
We experience a weekly tidal wave of information coming in to the office of the Advance. Unfortunately, most of it is unwanted and of little to no use to our readers. Unless, of course, there's this burning desire in Atmore to know which Birmingham law firm recently renovated its historic Birmingham office.
During the course of this past week, I kept an eye on just how much information flows in to this office. While the numbers are a little rough, they're close enough to give you a good idea of what happens here.
There are basically three computers that have to do with the editorial product here. Each one has its own email address, which is published right here on this page and with our Web site.
On any given day, those three computers and their email addresses combine to receive roughly 1,000 emails per day. Of that number, approximately 60 on any given day have any relevance to Atmore or the surrounding area.
That leaves more than 900 unsolicited, unwanted emails about everything under the sun, from discount drugs of every variety to op-ed pieces from every politically inclined think-tank in the county, to lending and scams involving everything from dating to ebay, hitting our inboxes.
We receive over 400 faxes per week, and again, most of them have nothing to do with Atmore. We get announcements for everything; the Auburn professor who got a $1,000 grant; the B-list cellist performing in Birmingham, the new office of a Montgomery chiropractor. You get the idea.
If I'm wrong, please correct me, but I think our readers would rather read about what's happing in and around Atmore and Escambia.
One area where we haven't been bombarded on a regular basis is telemarketing calls. We thankfully receive very few of those. We get about 100 calls per day, but nearly every one is from a reader or someone in the community, calling to subscribe, advertise or let us in on a news tip. We're happy to take a call from a local voice.
Of course, someone has to look at all those faxes and emails to determine what they are, where they're coming from, and what to do with them.
Especially when it comes to email, you develop an itchy trigger finger, hovering over the "delete" button.
Of course, no man is an island, and no newspaper, business or community exists in a vacuum. We're all connected.
So here's the part where you can help. When sending emails, make sure you write a clear subject, letting us know what you're sending, and who you are. Sometimes in the race of daily life, we go for brevity. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not. The clearer the subject line, the more likely it will register as a legitimate message and avoid getting zapped into the email netherworld.
Same goes for faxes. Make sure your subject heading is clear about the information it contains, and stay away from fancy lettering. The easier it is for us to read, the better chance you have of getting the correct information in the paper the first time.
A lot of work goes in to sifting through the vast amounts of information we receive here at the Advance, and we know a lot of work goes into the things you send us. It's important to you and it's important to us that the right information goes out in a timely manner.
To paraphrase the Beatles, we'll get there "with a little help from our friends."

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