Juneau Empire’s Director of Audience hopes to engage community

The Juneau Empire building at 3100 channel Drive.

The Director of Audience at the Juneau Empire says the newspaper may be entering a period of stability.

Former managing editor Charles L. Westmoreland has returned, replacing John Moses, who left earlier this month.  No word as to whether he was asked to resign, and Moses also would not comment.

In April, publisher Mark Bryan was replaced, just days after the paper rolled out a digital content pay wall.  Reporters have been coming and going.

But Director of Audience Abby Lowell says reporting staff is up, with the hire of three reporters in the past few months.

Lowell’s job itself is new.  She says Empire owner Morris Communications created the position at papers it owns outside Alaska, so when current publisher Rustan Burton took over, he added Director of Audience.

Lowell was already working for the paper, applied and got the job.

“Basically it’s my job to help make sure the paper is valuable to all the audiences we serve.  Whether it’s an advertising audience, whether it is readership, whether it’s contacts for stories, I want to make sure we are valuable to them and that the proper messages are getting to the right folks,” she says.

Lowell says she has her hands in a “little bit of everything,” from advertising to circulation to the newsroom and the web.  She studies web analytics, conducts surveys and reaches out to the community. One new thing is “lunch with the publisher.”

“It’s all of us reaching out to the community and saying ‘hey we’re doing this and we want your input, would you like to come over for lunch some time and talk you us about what you see were doing, and where you see opportunities?’  Essentially, give us the good, bad and the ugly.  It’s OK, we want to hear it,” Lowell says.

The Empire also is starting a new Readers’ Council, which Lowell calls another editorial board that is unaffiliated with the newspaper.  She says the group would contribute opinion pieces to the paper.

Lowell says the Readers’ Council would be another way the Empire hopes to engage the audience so readers feel they have a say in what goes into the capital city’s newspaper.


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