Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bowie News and Views: Bowie Star Editor Ken Sain

This week's episode of Bowie News and Views is now on YouTube in two parts. John Rouse and Burt Oliver chat with editor Ken Sain who is responsible for the Bowie Star as well as the Landover, Lanham, Largo and New Carrollton Gazettes.

Ken Sain talks about the Washington Post's commitment to community news. Community news is a profitable business, and the Post invested over $20 million in a new headquarters in Laurel, $25 million in a new press and millions of dollars in a new content management software package.

Although Bowie residents receive the print edition of the Bowie Star weekly, Sain considers the paper to be a daily news organization with frequent updates to the Gazette website. The website received 1.8 million page views and 300,000 unique visitors last month that Sain attributes to the paper's election coverage. Despite the importance of the web for up-to-date news, the weekly print edition continues to provide the majority of the revenue for the paper.

Sain acknowledged that the launch of Bowie Patch has created competition for real time Bowie news, but Sain said that he doesn't focus on being the first to publish a story. Sain said that it is important for the Bowie Star to stay true to its mission of providing the best and most comprehensive coverage of Bowie. "Our mission is not to be Bowie Patch and get the first story up," Sain declares. That answer may be technically true, but I have no doubt that Sain wants to provide the best and most comprehensive coverage AND get the scoops. The Gazette was the first of the Bowie media outlets to post a story last Saturday morning about the murder outside West Bowie Village Hall, and I have no doubt that the paper responded more quickly than it would have on a past weekend day before Bowie Patch was launched.

Sain revealed that he has had a discussion with Bowie Communications Coordinator Una Cooper about having the local media organizations coach the city to more efficiently provide information to the local media outlets, and Sain suggested that it would be helpful for the city to create a public information officer position.

Click here to see the entire Bowie News and Views YouTube collection, and click here to see the entire set of Bowie cable television YouTube videos.


  1. About the post's coverage of pg county-mr Rouse made the comment that their coverage of pg county is inadequate, but it seems that the majority of news outlets fail to report on the GOOD things that happen. The larger, the worse they are about it. Did you know a local PG county police officer was awarded the state of Maryland "law enforcement officer of the year" award from the VFW? no. nobody reported on it. Heck, i wouldn't have known about the oktoberfest this past weekend at the farmer's market if it hadn't been for the bowie patch. Where was that reporting before 2 months ago when they came along?

    I think part of the problem is accessibility. The bowie blade comes out once a week, and while fairly comprehensive in terms of Bowie coverage, the website is terrible. I don't think it's updated but once a week, when the paper is published. The post, well, it's the post and won't publish a word unless something bad happens here. The bowie star isn't too bad, because they are better about updating their website, but again, they don't seen to be as comprehensive..

  2. There can be more than one reason that a news outlet fails to cover a story. Either they don't know about the story or they have made a decision not to write or publish the story. And there are are multiple reasons why they might not write or publish the story, including the perception that it is not newsworthy, not interesting, not timely or, in the case of a print paper, there may not be enough room. There can also be a resource issue because there are too many stories during that week for the numbers of writers/reporters, or in the case of an outlet like Patch, there may not be the budget.

    News outlet subscribe to a lot of data sources. They should all get regular updates from the Prince George's County Police. They should all monitor Google using keywords. Some data is less accessible. If they want to see Bowie Police reports, they have to go to the website and check periodically. Due to the event calendar feature, the Patch folks proactively dig into the City of Bowie events, which is how you heard about the farmers' market.

    For the "officer of the year" award, I speculate that the news outlets didn't know about it. Just a guess. You might know otherwise. In fact, this is the type of story that can still run tomorrow or next week, and if you think the news outlets don't know about it, you should drop them a note. I correspond with all three local editors fairly regularly, and I can tell you that one of them said to me recently, "gee, I wish someone had called us about that," with respect to a story covered by a rival. These people want to hear about stories from their readers.

    I don't know the details about the officer of the year award, but even if it's covered, it's likely to be a short article in a community notes type section or a picture with an extended caption. If the officer was given the award due to a specific heroic action, that might gets some play also. It's not that newspapers don't want to print good news, but they try to balance coverage, newsworthiness and reader interest. This is by no means a value judgment about the accomplishments of the specific officer, but people are more likely to respond to a shooting incident than an award given for bravery for the same shooting incident. Both are newsworthy, and both should be covered, but readers are going to respond more to the shooting than the award. That's just how it goes.

    With regard to the coverage, I think it is mixed. Patch at times seems more like a blog than a news organization, and I can think of several news stories that they should have covered but didn't. The Bowie Star suffers from not having people in the community, and they really need people to give them a call. But when people in Bowie call a news outlet, their first thought is to call the Blade.

  3. I do understand what you're saying.. It's just really disappointing that the more sensational stories seem to win out over the feel-good ones. I mean, judging solely by what you read in the paper, or see on the television news, you'd think the streets where we live are overrun with gun-toting criminals that are routinely being beaten by poorly trained overzealous (and lazy at the same time) police officers. Oh, and people like you and I? ones that are (mostly) happily raising our young children in that same area? Well, according to the media we don't exist.. at least they never mention "us".