In last Thursday's edition of our new Hooligan section, we managed, with some of the content contained within, to offend the sensibilities of a number of our readers. To have done so was never our intent.
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Some background: Hooligan is a publication, launched in mid-June, and aimed at 20- to 35-year-olds in the Juneau market. As are many other publications in other newspapers large and small across the country, Hooligan is designed to be heavy on graphics and content that is snappy, edgy and sassy. For purposes of this exercise, think of 25-year-olds who, in a general sense, are more into computer gaming, reality TV, Web logs and high-energy entertainment than those of us twice their age.
Hooligan is a section on which several of our key people from our advertising, news, online and production departments worked for many months. It replaced what had been This Week, which was much more about local arts and entertainment than it was about the lifestyle of young adults.
Hooligan also has a strong Web presence in clubhooligan.com, as so many to whom it appeals spend far more time online than they would tend to spend with a print version.
In the first several weeks of Hooligan's existence, none of us - including me - heard anything but rave reviews not only from the 20- to 35-year-old segment of our readership, but from those considerably older. That's not blue sky in an attempt to convince you of anything. It's the truth.
Two weeks ago, however, I received one e-mail from a reader who thought our story on local pubs and their washrooms was less than entertaining. Then came last week's Hooligan and an outpouring of criticism, much of it from parents who were outraged by what their kids had seen in their newspaper. It was never intended for those high school-age and younger.
The centerpiece in last week's Hooligan dealt with some home entertainment parties that are for adults only, and it was not well received by many of you.
Based on the responses we received by phone, e-mail and conventional mail, many thought the story itself was rather tame but the photo illustrations were way out of line. Others thought the subject matter, story and illustrations, were entirely ill-conceived and improper.
Reactions have run the gamut from, "I like Hooligan but this one went too far," to "I think it's downright low-class. ... It doesn't come across as hip or clever" to "I can't believe an issue (of the newspaper) with that in it was delivered to my home and I had to hide it from my children." Then we began getting reactions to the reactions, and in those, people opined that the Hooligan piece wasn't too far over the edge.
We had several hours of discussion last Thursday and Friday, internally and externally, about Hooligan and how it will be shaped and presented henceforth. Hooligan can still be a lively, edgy publication for a younger demographic in Juneau, but in reaching those readers we know we must be thoughtful and measured in how we package and present the topics we write about and allow for discussion in print and online.
We know the content of a Hooligan section won't satisfy the tastes of each and every one of our readers, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of content to appeal to the 20- to 35-year-olds and beyond.
As publisher of the Empire there's one thing I deeply regret: the perception that we intentionally set out to offend readers with content and graphics we knew were well off the charts. That was never our intent even though that was the outcome for many of you.
What we've been reminded of in the past several days is that, in experimenting with a new publication aimed at a specific audience, we can't forget the remainder of our overall audience, which is quite diverse. Knowing that, our mission is still to keep Hooligan a rich, robust publication which resonates with 20- to 35-year-olds, yet which our entire readership will feel comfortable with.
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