Reilly said he thinks of the paper as primarily a local and regional one, but it is still important to present their own take on larger, national stories. The same wire copy is available to every news source, so the World-Herald feels it has to distinguish its coverage with a unique slant whenever possible. While stories from outlets like the AP and McClatchy are an enormous resource, no one knows their local audience better than their own newsroom reporters.
“Frequently we find the day’s news a little wanting in terms of having enough context so that people will really understand the significance of these things.” Reilly said. “So some of what we do is just to bring together disparate pieces to bring context to these stories.”
The World-Herald editors know how important national news coverage is to their readers—because the readers told them so. A few years ago, Reilly said, they ran a survey asking their audience what topics they cared the most about. The results of the survey encouraged them to keep allocating staff time to national stories. The World-Herald still has a full time staff reporter based in Washington, D.C. Joseph Morton, who was recently elected president of the Regional Reporters Association, has been in the Washington bureau for about four years.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the ranks of regional reporters here in Washington have been dwindling over the years,” Morton said. “At the same time, I do know of examples where the newer technology has allowed some papers to put someone back in Washington where they didn’t have one for a while…with a Verizon air card and a laptop, they can work out of the press galley of the Capitol, or a coffee shop, or wherever.”
Morton agrees with his colleagues that it is important to maintain a physical presence in Washington. For one thing, he hears about important policy changes sooner than he would sitting at a desk in Omaha. And he wouldn’t be able to chase people down hallways for a quote if he were back in Omaha, either.
Being on the Hill every day allows Morton’s readers to have a connection to the national policy decisions that will affect them—in some ways that are unique to Nebraska residents, and other ways that are more universal.
“Most Omahans think of themselves as Americans before they think of themselves as Omahans,” said executive editor Reilly. “And in all of the obvious ways the world is getting smaller. So it’s important to us that we always look for ways to bring the world home.”