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Monday, July 16, 2012

Single-copy sales for three-part investigative series proved disheartening


One of the first big stories that I covered in 2008 was the story about Best Bath and its move to Kuna, which some neighbors opposed because of the company's use of the chemical styrene in its manufacture of shower and walk-in tub units. I spent weeks researching a three-part series titled, "Will Best Bath smell?" The series rolled out in April.
The single-copy sales of that first issue spiked. For the second part, single-copy sales dipped. By the third week, single-copy sales plummeted to their lowest level in weeks. Each week, as I collected the increasing number of leftovers from the previous week’s issue, I became more and more demoralized that I had spent all of this time and effort — and space — on this series that answered important questions, perhaps the most important questions the community was facing at the time, only to have the community turn away from it.
Literally hundreds of people had purchased the first issue but did not come back for the second and third installments. It was perhaps my first hint that the public’s appetite for “important” stories was greatly limited.
I suppose I was heartened, a year later, when the series won first place for Best Series from the Idaho Press Club, beating out the much larger papers Idaho Mountain Express and The Star-News. It also earned an honorable mention in that year's National Newspaper Association contest.
But still, unfortunately, the experience made me more hesitant about launching a deep investigation that would take several weeks and span more than one issue of the newspaper.

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