It was always astonishing to me as a newspaper editor how much readers cared about their puzzles. Make a mistake, leave them out of the paper for a day, and the telephone wouldn’t stop ringing. Have a bad question — or a bad answer — and you wouldn’t hear the end of it.
We journalists like to think it’s the quality of our news reports that drives loyalty to our work. And that’s true. To a point. But an editor learns pretty quickly that it’s the features readers look forward to, the things they anticipate with pleasure, that keep many coming back for more.
I learned this at the start of my journalism career at a small afternoon daily newspaper in Albuquerque, N.M., before the Internet upended local journalism. The then-senior editors, who were younger than I am today, taught me something that their mentors had taught them: A newspaper editor needs to pay special attention to comics, games and puzzles. My teachers treated the travelers who dropped by a couple of times a year carrying new offerings for the paper with respect, and tried to make their visits worthwhile. They didn’t want to send them away empty-handed, because they wanted to make sure that when they had something hot, they’d bring it to them first.
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