EXPLAINER: Where do we get questions for the 'Ask the Editor' section?

Near the front of each Community Impact Newspaper issue is a section called “Ask the Editor,” which can feature either an answer to a specific question we received, a response to a more general inquiry or information we think would be helpful to share with readers.

Although our papers do not have a traditional “Letters to the Editor” section, we always welcome feedback, comments and questions from readers and do our best to respond to each submission personally. Some questions take a little more research to effectively answer.

Here are a few examples of various types of "Ask the Editor" notes that readers may see in our print editions. Readers can always submit their questions to communityimpact.com/feedback.

Answers to specific questions


 
In the December issue of the Spring-Klein edition, we answered a specific question from a reader about our Transportation Updates page included in nearly every issue of Community Impact Newspaper. The question is "Why are lanes closed on FM 1960?" The road, a heavily traveled thoroughfare with many traffic signals, is one of the major east-west corridors in the Spring and Klein area. The reader wanted to know how we chose projects for this section, as we had not yet featured that project, which was beginning to cause significant travel delays for the readership. That reader interest prompted us to look into the project further, and we discovered that construction is part of a special curb ramp project to improve accessibility. This scenario is proof that having a dialogue with readers actually helps us share better information that is directly relevant to people in our coverage area.

Answers to general questions


 
On a similar note, we sometimes receive a number of questions on the same general topic. The "Ask the Editor" section is a chance for us to address those similarly themed questions all at once. The November issue of our Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition is an example of this kind of editor's note, answering the question, "What's up with all the construction?" The editor addresses what is likely an unusual amount of small road construction projects in all three of the municipalities covered by the paper, providing a quote from a local city manager to put the work in perspective. Sometimes these editor notes act as mini-stories, giving us the change to inform readers on news that we couldn't fit elsewhere in the paper—or to provide background for how we chose which pieces of news to highlight.

Useful information


 
Journalists throw around a lot of terminology used by city officials, engineers, government entities and experts on topics the average reader may not be immediately familiar with. Many of the terms used in government, for instance—municipal utility district, or limited-purpose annexation—require a little background and definition before you jump into reading a related story. This editor note in the November issue of the Tomball-Magnolia edition tackles the question "What is a public improvement district?" Our job is to inform readers, and we can do that better when we take the time to explain some of the concepts that don't often pop up outside of city planning boards and government meetings.

Reporting is provided as part of Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with the Trusting News Project.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


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