Community journalism thrives at the San Angelo Standard Times

For The San Angelo Standard-Times and its on-line version,, newsgathering in the Internet age is not show business. However, technology has put the newspaper in a closer competition with traditional electronic media. While metro papers are suffering, the San Angelo paper is attracting new readers — despite a sluggish economy

Tim Archuleta, editor of The San Angelo Standard-Times and, said, “Being able to serve up content in lots of different ways gives us a new platform to reach audiences, but in the end, we’re going to succeed by being true to our traditional values. It’s about serving our communit

Archuleta has worked in journalism for 25 years, with stints in New Mexico, Michigan, California and Texas. He said the immediacy of news — with reader feedback — is the biggest change in newspaper today, with the advent of online versions and no more waiting 24 hours to break a story.

“When you look at the transition from just being print to going online, and becoming true multi-media journalism, you have to remember that it’s not about perfection.” Archuleta said. “Especially online, it’s about progress. You want folks (reporters and editors) to experiment.”

Some things don’t change. The Standard-Times reporters serve a mid-size, somewhat secluded West Texas city and the 16-17 surrounding counties, just as they have in much of the paper’s 125-year history. Although a San Angelo reporter may travel 200 miles one way to cover his or her beat, two stories with worldwide interest practically fell into their lap

The State of Texas raided a polygamist compound south of San Angelo in Eldorado, taking hundreds of children from parents in the sect after allegations of child abuse and underage, arranged marriages. In effect, the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) case became the nation’s largest child custody case, with more than 400 children displaced.

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“We were driving the story, and I am proud of our team for that.” He said. “You will hear me mention the FLDS time and time again in our story of making the transition from print to being also online. What that showed us was we had to go online first. We had lots of media competition. The story was developing so quickly …”

The paper’s stories were picked up by news organizations, including the Associated Press, and distributed worldwide in other papers, in addition to direct readership at the paper’s site.

“We just celebrated our second month going over two million page views,” Archuleta said. “We hit two million views earlier, but it was really driven by the FLDS investigation.”

A second story struck a chord with a special-interest audience, and soon readers around the world were talking about the logistics of long-distance lactation because of a San Angelo story.

“You can be first with breaking news. You can provide video. You can do things that you couldn’t do before,” he said. “If you don’t do it, someone else might.”

When the paper began its on-line version, five years ago, it didn’t know what to expect. In fact, management ran a full-page ad in the paper, touting when GoSanAngelo first hit one million page views — just two years ago.

“Think about the role that newspapers have traditionally played in communities. We’ve shaped our communities and this (on-line news) is just another example. Think about what it would be like if we didn’t have a way to help our readers move into a digital format. Our community won’t be left behind.”

The Standard-Times has not announced plans to monetize its content to date, although Archuleta predicts that is something all news organizations will explore. Archuleta and team are focused on providing an interactive experience, with many choices to attract and satisfy more readers — seven days a week. The print version includes five sections and typically 50 pages on any given Sunday, with an emphasis on local new

In Texas, football is king and the Internet is yet another means for The Standard-Times to feed that hunger. GoSanAngelo this year launched “Blitz,” a multi-media football guide teeming with data, statistics and photo gallerie

The paper also started “Morning Chat,” an online comment forum for readers to discuss topics of the day – with a strict set of guidelines, self-policed by the readers. It is not uncommon for a single discussion or “thread” to include 200 reader comments and/or contribution.

“We went through a period during the FLDS raid where we got a lot of bizarre comments on the website and it was to the point where it was sort of out of control. News agencies are still struggling with how to control comments,” Archuleta said.

The Standard-Times was also one of the first papers to shut down on-line comments and impose a time-out. The service began anew, after guidelines were posted beside the registration form.

Community journalism, by definition, is a vital part of a social community, so The Standard-Times also has social media visibility on Facebook — delivering shorter versions of stories and links to full stories. The paper’s Facebook page is followed by an impressive 25 percent of its readers.

The story on breast milk — with its tie to military — spread virally on Facebook and via the paper’s site, attracting readers all over the world.

“For the year, it was our top viewed story.”