Usually when we get more than three calls from readers about an item in the paper, it has to do with a controversial story, or an error that jumps off the page.
But Thursday, the four readers I spoke with were calling about the web poll results we’d reported on page A2 of the Daily Chronicle that day.
The question was designed to be “click-bait,” something we expected people would want to vote on: “Who do you blame for the government shutdown?” (This isn’t Fox News, so we don’t call it a “slimdown.”)
The answers were Democrats, Republicans, President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, or all national political leaders. “The media” just missed the cut.
In print, we reported there had been 314 total votes, with a plurality (39 percent) saying they blamed all national leaders for this mess.
We put the poll results on the page around 6 p.m. Wednesday. About two hours later, the number of votes had almost doubled.
A screenshot a reader emailed me from the reader’s computer around 8 p.m. showed almost 300 new votes in the poll, almost all of them saying they blamed Republicans for the shutdown. We’d reported that 21 percent of voters said they blamed Republicans; later that night, 47 percent of votes were for the GOP.
The callers all wanted to know if we had manipulated the results to make them say what we wanted?
We didn’t rig the vote. But it looks as though someone did.
It’s unusual for that many web poll votes to come in late in the day. It’s even more unusual for them to be a landslide in one direction.
Most likely, there was a concerted effort by one or more people to skew the poll results. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and probably won’t be the last.
Shaw Media and the Daily Chronicle are not affiliated with the Gallup organization, and our daily web polls aren’t conducted with any scientific methodology. Like it used to say on pinball machines back when you could find one, they’re “for amusement only.”
Rest assured we don’t and won’t manipulate the poll results. We will try to enter the data later in the evening, in order to make them more accurately reflect later participation.
So go ahead, keep voting.
National Newspaper Week: Today concludes the 73rd annual National Newspaper Week, which recognizes the importance of newspapers to their communities. There will be many more to come.
Most people who work in journalism hear otherwise from time to time. People will talk about how they know it’s a tough time to be in the news business and how newspapers are dying.
Usually, the comments are meant to be sympathetic. Or patronizing. Or a backhanded put-down.
Regardless, save your tears.
Through its website, Daily-Chronicle.com, its Twitter account @Daily_Chronicle and the Daily Chronicle Facebook page, the Daily Chronicle has a far broader audience today than it did when DeKalb County Life columnist Barry Schrader was editor 40 years ago.
We don’t just write and photograph news, either. Today, updated news and sports videos are available almost every day on Daily-Chronicle.com.
Local news reporting has been and will continue to be an important part of communities across America. Will the printed newspaper change? It has for decades, no reason it would stop now. So will the website, the mobile site, the tablet site, the social networks that we use to let you know what’s happening now in your community.
In Monday’s Daily Chronicle, we ran an editorial cartoon that featured a great quote from Arthur Miller: “A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.”
It follows then that a good local newspaper is a community talking to itself.
That’s the great thing about local news and the reason it will endure, no matter how it is delivered: It is written by people in the community, for people in the community. Our professional journalists contribute, as do many others by submitting items about upcoming events, milestones in their lives, letters to the editor, or comments on stories online. (I enjoy Mil Misic’s somewhat regular letters, personally.)
Not to mention the local businesses who run advertisements and coupons, the people who place classified ads for their garage sales, used cars, lawnmowers, and lost cats, and all of the other local content you can find in print and online.
Almost all of the Daily Chronicle staff lives in DeKalb County. We are homeowners and renters. We pay the same taxes, send our children to the same schools, drive the same roads and shop at the same stores as you. When it rains here, we get wet, too.
When we make mistakes, we are here to account for them. If you think this column stinks, you can drive down to 1586 Barber Greene Road in DeKalb on Monday and tell me so.
Our journalists also share a belief that reporting the news is a key part of our company’s mission of serving our communities to make them better places to live.
This is an exciting time to work in local news. The changes in our industry have been tremendous, but for the most part, they’ve been for the better.
So don’t feel too bad for us.
As National Newspaper Week concludes, let me say that It’s a pleasure to be your news-reporting neighbor.
• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email eolson @shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.