ST. GEORGE — Coming from a background of fiction writing, teaching language arts and editing, Paul Dail has taken the reins as the new editor in chief of St. George News after having been with the organization for 2 ½ years.
Dail, a father of three from Cedar City, started his role as the editor in chief of the online news source in August. As the head of St. George News and Cedar City News, Dail edits articles, manages stories written by reporters and serves as the news source’s representative.
“Paul has a natural gift for spotting a good story and the ability and experience as an editor to transform a good story into a great one,” said Ben Lindquist, general manager of Canyon Media, the parent company of St. George News.
Looking to the future of St. George News
By making St. George News more transparent and continuing reporter interactions with the community, Dail said he hopes to expand the reach of St. George News and help people know about the decisions that are made behind the scenes.
Journalists’ jobs include so much interaction with the public, Dail said, but there is often a divide between journalists and members of the community, possibly because many people don’t know what drives decisions in the newsroom.
He said it could also be the very fact that there is so much public interaction. Journalists are similar to members of law enforcement, Dail said, because at the purest motivations for both professions is the root goal to serve their public, but their actions also make them the subject of intense public scrutiny.
“I think a lot of people think of the media as some secret society in a way,” Dail said, “(but) transparency is important in journalism, especially today. One of my big goals is to open the doors a little more and help our readers know where we’re coming from, why we make the decisions we make.”
And where they’re coming from is St. George and Cedar City, Dail added, saying that helping people feel like St. George News is part of the community is another of his goals – an important lesson he attributes to his predecessor, Joyce Kuzmanic, and a goal that goes hand-in-hand with serving their local readers.
Dail said that while he has final say over what gets published, he can’t make those decisions without thinking about the community.
“My job includes deciding what’s important to our readers, what they need to know, what they might want to know and what might make their lives better or more interesting that day,” he said. “We are looking out for the best interests of the community.”
This is often easier said than done, he added. Sometimes it’s a small thing, like having to tell someone that St. George News won’t be able to cover a story, a reality that Dail said is one of the hardest parts of his job.
“Every story idea that comes to us is important to somebody,” he said. “I wish I could publish them all.”
But sometimes considering the best interests of the readers deals with bigger issues and rough decisions over sensitive content that are grappled with in the newsroom, Dail said, adding that sometimes mistakes are made when trying to do “the right thing.” He said:
There’s an old proverb about the road to Hell, but our intention is never to hurt people. Bad news hurts enough already, but if that’s what our public wants or needs to know, then we try to figure out the best way to tell them the story with as much fairness and balance as possible. We don’t always get it right.
Dail said he plans to work toward greater understanding in the upcoming months through a series of editorials and that he looks forward to hearing back from readers.
A little country, a little rock and roll
Dail said he was excited when he learned in the spring of 2017 that Canyon Media had acquired St. George News. Besides being a “radio guy from way back,” including deejaying for both Southern Utah University as well as a commercial station in Missoula, Montana, he said he recognized from the beginning how this partnership could serve their readers in a whole different capacity.
With that in mind, he hopes to continue building on the cooperation between St. George News and Canyon Media radio stations – including St. George News Radio, Planet 105.1, KONY County 99.9 and 95.9 The Hawk – and believes readers and listeners will also be pleased with the relationship.
From the radio side, he said he believes any St. George News readers who are also music fans would want to hear about concert updates, ticket giveaways and other fun promotions being run by the various stations.
In addition, since St. George News has previously been limited to connecting with most of its readers through the internet, having the radio as an additional vehicle for news means the community will have more – and faster – access to up-to-date stories that might not have otherwise popped up on their radar if they weren’t at a computer, whether that’s at work or on the road.
‘We’re not a faceless organization’
Writing is something Dail said he has enjoyed since he was a kid, a passion that ultimately prompted him to get his degree in English with a fiction writing emphasis from the University of Montana. But while he had edited student papers for six years as an English teacher at Tuacahn High School, it wasn’t until he started working for the St. George-based The Independent newspaper in 2014 that he realized he had a knack for news editing as well.
He joined St. George News in February 2016 as an assistant editor and said that over the subsequent 2 ½ years, he learned a considerable amount from Kuzmanic not only about how news in Southern Utah functions and how it’s unique but also what makes St. George News successful.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that we’re not a faceless organization and that we don’t cater to the masses,” Dail said. “We cater to individual readers. … St. George News was built one reader at a time, and although we have grown over the past eight years, I won’t forget why we are doing what we do.”
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