A harried editor reaches his or her desk at the beginning of a typical workday.

While turning on his or her computer, the editor notices the phone’s message light blinking.

After punching the 150 to 200 digits it takes to access voice messages, the editor hears the voice of an upset reader: “Why didn’t you cover such-and-such story yesterday? The event affects the lives of hundreds of your readers. It would have made a great story.”

This scenario is played out entirely too often.

Frequently, the editor realizes the paper missed a legitimate news story.

It’s a frustrating situation for reader and editor.

The problem is, although we are in the business of collecting news, and our reporters have large webs of contacts, we can’t know everything, every day. As much as we’d like to, we’re not aware of every event that happens in Southern Illinois.

Sometimes, we need a little help.

That’s where the reader comes in.

It may be strange in this day of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and any other social media platform, but there are times when stories fall through the cracks. We received a call recently regarding an event that was occurring the next night.

The caller felt the committee promoting the event had dropped the ball in terms of alerting the media.

The caller was correct. We had learned about the event the previous day, and the newspaper planned to cover it. But, it took some scrambling and moving resources around to do it. Fortunately for all concerned, it worked out.

Those last-minute shifts aren’t always possible. A phone call or an email a week in advance would have made things less hectic. Obviously, a news organization has to be light on its feet. The news business is unpredictable.

Editors meet each day at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the next day’s newspaper. Things change so fast in this business that the newspaper that hits the street 12 hours later rarely fits the plan established the previous afternoon.

It is precisely that unpredictable nature that makes it important for us to have advance notice of events whenever possible. The more notice we have, the more efficient our coverage.

It must also be noted that advance notice doesn’t guarantee an event will be covered. There are other variables at play — the newsworthiness of the event and the availability of reporters and photographers.

On the other hand, it never hurts to call or email us. At the very least, advance notice will put your event on our radar. It creates an opportunity for coverage.

The Southern Illinoisan survives only by serving its readership and the citizens of the region. There are times we need our readers’ assistance in achieving that goal.

If you have a news tip, or know of a newsworthy event, don’t be afraid to call. It can’t hurt.

Contact information is: Tom English, editor, 618-351-5070, tom.english@thesouthern.com; Alee Quick, digital editor, 618-351-5807, alee.quick@thesouthern.com; and Les Winkeler, sports editor, 618-351-5088, les.winkeler@thesouthern.com.

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