We’ll take a cup of kindness yet ...

I’ve never really been one for making New Year’s resolutions. Mostly, I suppose, because I know I won’t follow through with them. Sure, I should lose weight, read more non-fiction, go to church, stop smoking crack, all the usual stuff – but these matters weigh no more heavily on me on Dec. 31 than they do every other day of the year.

That said, perhaps the reason I have no follow-through is that I tend to make these vague lists solely in my head. If there’s no permanent record, I can edit and delete that mental list willy-nilly and no one will be the wiser.

Not so, if I bothered to put those resolutions in print, I would imagine. But since I doubt highly you care that Jeff Genung vows to be better about washing his car or drinking less vodka, I thought instead I’d use this space to commit to some New Year’s resolutions for the good ol’ Evening Sun.

• No more check-passing photos. I’ve said it before, but this time I mean it. While we will still publish these tried-and-true staples of community commitment, you’ll have to take them yourselves. In this day and age, everyone and their brother has a digital camera capable of taking a perfectly decent grin-and-grab photo. I want my staff, Frank Speziale included, to better spend their time capturing great photos of events and people that truly represent slices of Chenango County life. So, if you call us to come take a picture of your latest check-passing, we will politely decline. Again, feel free to submit them yourselves, and I’ll be happy to publish them – even if they are the most boring photos known to man, I know they have a purpose.

• We’re going to make an effort to return to some hard-hitting investigative work, as much as time allows. We tend to get bogged down in the meeting, event, meeting, event cycle news-wise, so this year we’ll try to break that habit by taking some time (and newsprint) to delve more deeply into some key issues facing our community. Case in point: Next Thursday, we’re starting a seven-part series on natural gas drilling that stemmed from an ES “field trip” to Dimock and Montrose, Pa. The staff got a firsthand look at what natural gas drilling has done to (and for) that area, with an eye toward what the future may hold for Chenango. I think it’s important for us to train our collective journalist’s eye on pressing issues that deserve more than a single story or soundbite. It’s what we do best, and we’ll do more of it.

• In a similar vein, I resolve that we’ll get out of Dodge more often. And by Dodge, I mean Norwich. This here’s the county seat, the center of its population, and a lot of news happens here. That’s never going to change. While I think we do a fairly good job up and down the Rt. 12 corridor, there’s a lot that happens – or could be featured – in the “outlying” towns in Chenango County, too. No other news organization is interested in what happens there unless it’s catastrophic – it’s our job alone to cover the day-to-day. We’re going to place a greater emphasis on the “Chenango” part of “Chenango County’s Hometown Daily.”

• If it bleeds, it leads. That’s a truism for all forms of media, unfortunately, and it’s not something we can shy away from. We’ll always put fires, accidents and crime on the front page. It’s immediate news that you’re interested in, whether you like to admit it or not. But you know what? Good news sells newspapers, too. I’ve seen it happen. If I were to keep tally, I’m positive that our “good” news stories outweigh the “bad.” Perhaps, though, in 2011 we’ll make a more concerted effort to look for the “good” – the off-the-beaten-path good that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. There’s a lot of it in Chenango County – and we’ll do a better job of showcasing it.

• You know what I think? Well, you do if you read this column (and I resolve to write it every week!) or my daily blog. You also know what my staff thinks about the issues they cover through the same means. What’s lacking on this very page, though, is the old newspaper “Editorial” tradition – wherein the newspaper takes a stand on local issues based on our newsgathering, sources and experienced opinion. Nothing makes us right or wrong, but putting that opinion out there and generating community conversation – through letters to the editor, word on the street and even, dare I say it, ‘30 Seconds,’ – is what community journalism is all about. Expect to see more of that, too.

• What’s it with me and bullet points lately?

• I’m sure there are plenty of other “new” things to come for The Evening Sun in 2011 – in fact, we’re taking some time before the holiday today to brainstorm some of those ideas for new features and practices which we hope will keep you “tuned in” in the coming year. I’ve always said that the best part about the newspaper business is our ability to reinvent our product virtually every day – I look forward to seeing what 2011 will bring.

Happy New Year, Chenango County!

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