Editorial: Four months of a new Times

Four months ago, on Feb. 15, readers saw a new version of The Rock River Times. We made a promise at that time – a time that marked a new era for this paper, one that has served the Rockford community for 30 years: more local journalism.

It would not be fair to our task or to our readers not to hold ourselves accountable for those efforts. And so, yesterday, June 15, four months after we made that promise to you, we took the time to take stock on just how far we’ve come.

In the four months prior to the launch of your new-look Times, we were averaging just over 25 local news stories per month – just under six per printed issue – either in the pages of our weekly paper on online at RockRiverTimes.com. That number does not include coverage of the local environment, arts, sports or any other of the wide range of topics we strive to cover. Only the core local news: who and what is happening in and around the Rockford area.

Now, with that Feb. 15 issue came a simple pledge: “Over the next year, we plan to invest further in local reporting and storytelling, and bring you new regular features on a range of topics.” We’re pleased to say we’ve done just that.

In the four months since your new Times hit newsstands around town, we’ve increased the number of local stories in our pages and online by 61 percent. That’s another 16 local news stories per month, many of those stories you could only find in pages of The Rock River Times. That’s a new mayor, a battle over an ICE prison, our continued search for better government.

And, in the hopes of helping you engage more in the community, we’ve improved our online events calendar as well. Instead of the old lengthy, disorganized listing method we used to have, we now offer an easy-to-use searchable daily calendar, utilizing the listings of our friends and partners throughout the community to help people find things to do across town.

Beyond our local zones, we’ve been increasing our coverage of news and events around the state. Relying on the work of top news outlets, and supplementing the stories of Illinois with our own in-house reporting, we’ve brought over 400 stories from across the state to the pages of our paper and our website since Feb. 15. Stories that impact us here in northern Illinois. Stories that impact you at home.

You may have noticed something else recently, as well. At the ends of some stories, there has a been a simple mark: R. This we are using to signify stories only found in The Times. We hope it will serve as a reminder to our readers of our committed effort to this city and its surrounding communities.

Now, all of this work is not done. If anything, we’ve reached a point where that work seems familiar in our new mode. But that does make it easier to continue with this process. To continue to bring our readers more coverage of their communities. We take pride in being Rockford’s independent newspaper, and one of (if not) the largest independently-owned alt-weekly in the state. But with that comes a responsibility to our readers. We hope that you will continue to see these efforts as bringing a better understanding of our always exciting and ever changing world.

As we said back in February, thank you all for your continued support of this newspaper. We could never do this without the backing of our many advertisers and our countless friends in the community who make this possible. And we hope that the next 30 years of The Rock River Times are even better than the first thirty. R.

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