OPINION COLUMNS

Strong as ever: Messenger’s Update approaches middle age

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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A member of the Messenger family turned 39 Monday and got its customary visit from thousands of loyal readers.

I get to spend time with this dedicated news provider every morning, and afternoon, and sometimes on the weekends, and occasionally, even in the middle of the night.

News never sleeps, and neither does Update.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

The first Update, or UPDATE! as it appeared in Vol. 1, No. 1, was published Monday, Feb. 2, 1976. That means we have officially entered our 40th year of providing your daily news fix.

The basic format and content haven’t changed too much in the last four decades. The goal was to provide news tidbits for readers between the times the newspaper was published. At that time, the Messenger was still a weekly newspaper.

Here’s what the first item in the first UPDATE! said:

“HOWDY! The Messenger UPDATE is a new publication that we plan to distribute daily to several places where Wise County folks gather at the noon hour. It’s our attempt to keep you informed daily of what’s happening in Wise County.”

It emphasized breaking news – news that might seem a little old if it was first reported in a paper nearly a week later. House fires, car wrecks, severe weather, major crime incidents, road conditions – basically the types of stories you might find on a morning television news program, only focused on Wise County rather than the Metroplex.

Update was also a place where brief summaries of meetings could be passed along to readers to keep them quickly informed of what their elected officials were doing with taxpayer money.

It was also a place where many of us could find out about the passing of friends and loved ones in our funerals listing.

Because it was a supplement to the weekly, and later twice-weekly, Wise County Messenger, Update was not designed to take the place of advertising in the paper, nor to be a running list of news briefs – particularly for items that were still several days or weeks away.

The daily format was primarily designed to let you know what important things happened yesterday and the important things coming up today.

Those values are the same today as they were in 1976. That’s why we believe Update remains as popular today as it has ever been.

We appreciate everyone who reads the daily news items and supports Update with advertising. Without those two critical elements, we wouldn’t have an Update.

Because people do not pay to have news items printed in the Update (just as they don’t pay for news content in the newspaper) we control its editorial content. That’s the essential difference between news and advertising – if you pay, you can run it when you want it, as often as you want it and as big as you want it.

Newspaper advertising, along with subscribers and newspaper rack sales, pay the bills here and at all newspapers.

As the point man for Update, I usually determine what makes it into each issue. Breaking news always gets top billing, followed by other important news of the day – content that is usually provided by our hardworking reporters.

I also receive many community submissions for Update. I try my best to get those items in on a timely basis, but sometimes items don’t run.

Many submissions also come with suggested days for those items to run. Again, I do my best to run them when requested, but often it doesn’t work out that way.

The printed Update is still a single-sheet news product, meaning space is at a premium.

Because of that, here are a few rules we have in place for news submissions:

  • We can’t guarantee that any submission will run. The same item will run a maximum of twice, if space allows.
  • Unless some sort of pre-registration or reservation is required for an event, that news item will typically not run more than one week before an event in Update. Those types of items can be included in our news briefs in the paper in the weeks preceding an event. It’s also why you will often just see the day of the week mentioned rather than the date – indicating an event coming up that week.
  • Because of our separation of news and advertising, we don’t run news items that promote a specific business (but we would be happy for you to purchase an ad!) In some cases, a business will hold some sort of event with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. We make judgment calls on those on an individual basis.
  • We run fundraiser items for registered non-profit, charity or school groups.
  • Because of the number of churches in Wise County, we don’t include information on events like Vacation Bible School or revivals. Those types of items need to be advertisements, and our Church Briefs Page is the ideal spot. We do occasionally run special events such as church anniversaries or concerts that do not charge admission.
  • The news submission will almost never appear exactly as it was sent in. We format briefs to fit our style and space limits. For instance, nearly every brief we receive has a “for more information, call ….” sentence attached to it. For space reasons, we now just say “Call …”
  • The Update is for items taking place in Wise County, or has a strong Wise County connection. We rarely run items for events taking place in surrounding counties.
  • We’re human, and we make mistakes. Sometimes I’ll overlook an item (sorry, retired educators who met last week). One tip for those sending me an email submission: please put “Update” in the subject line. That decreases the chance I’ll overlook an item.

We’re proud to have served your daily news needs for nearly 40 years, and we hope to continue that into the future. Always feel free to call if you have any questions, concerns or need to verify that your Update submission was received.

Brian Knox is special projects manager, and Update editor, for the Messenger.

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