A week ago Thursday, about 20 people met with me at the open-but-not-quite-grand-open Canyon Grille at DeBell in Burbank.
The reason was similar to a grouping I had in February for readers of the Glendale paper: I want and need feedback about what people find valuable about the Burbank Leader as well as what they dislike.
Burbank and Glendale, while having many positive similarities — low crime, good schools, and an engaged populace — are neither identical nor fraternal twins. As such, I very much expected that the suggestions coming from the two community advisory boards would be different.
I was right. People in Glendale are generally more content with their local paper. Though there were a number of things people felt we could do better in our coverage of the Jewel City, the overall consensus was that we do a pretty good job.
Burbank residents, despite my petty attempt at bribery with the Canyon Grille's excellent food, were a bit more critical in their views. OK, a lot more critical. That's fine. If anything, it means the improvements will be quicker to implement and more obvious.
I asked members to break into smaller groups, each tasked with coming up with three answers to the following questions: What does the paper do well, what could it do better, and what changes would they like to see in the near future?
Afterward, we reconvened to let each group present its ideas, giving everyone a chance to weigh in.
So, without further explanation, here's what the group came up with:
Three things the Leader does well:
• High school sports coverage
• Semiweekly publishing schedule (i.e., twice a week) though more often would be better
• Spot news coverage (e.g., arrests, fires, accidents, etc.)
Three things the Leader needs to improve upon:
• Sports coverage should include adult events (like golf tournaments) as well as club sports (like ice hockey) not necessarily connected to a high school
• The "In Theory" religious Q&A section should be significantly shortened, eliminated or made online only
• The "A Word, Please" grammar column should be eliminated or made online only
Three things the Leader should consider doing in the near future:
• More stories of the impacts of state and federal laws on Burbank, not just stories about what local reps are doing
• Infographics on items of local interest (business vacancy rates, average home prices, rent, SAT scores, etc.)
• More investigative reporting
Many more ideas were spoken about, many of which were quite good. However, I've limited the list to three in each category for a very practical reason: I want to do as many of them as possible and quickly. I am publishing these ideas as a way of holding myself and the paper accountable.
In fact, during the next community advisory board meeting, tentatively scheduled for early summer, I will go over these items, point by point, explaining what was done to put their recommendations in action.
In the interim, if you want to have your own say on what we should do — or should stop doing — please send us a letter for the forum page. I really do pay attention.
Follow Dan Evans on Twitter: @EditorDanEvans.