RH covering TH

Robert Harding, right, is The Citizen's political reporter. Here he is in 2018 covering a town hall meeting at the Boyle Center in Auburn. 

Lately it seems everyone I meet has the same question: "How is The Citizen?" 

I'd be lying if I said things are great, but I'd be lying if I said we are on our deathbed. 

There have been tough decisions made this year: The removal of our printing process, placing our Dill Street building for sale and recent layoffs that hit our newsroom hard. 

When I started at The Citizen 10 years ago (in December!), we had more than 20 newsroom employees. As of this writing, that number is down to nine. 

There is a specific question people ask me after inquiring about the state of The Citizen. That question is about my coverage of Cayuga County-area politics. My response, in short, is nothing will change. 

Yes, with fewer people in the newsroom, there are things I will have to pick up. But my approach to covering politics won't be affected. I'm going to cover the 24th Congressional District race, the 50th Senate District race and other 2020 campaigns. The New York presidential primary is expected to be a big prize again, so I will cover that for The Citizen. 

I have heard from readers who appreciate my political coverage, especially in these tumultuous times. They express hope that The Citizen will continue to value political reporting. I know they do. I hope you do, too. 

It's important to note that some of the business decisions made this year are more related to our print product than our digital offerings. With no printing press in the building, we don't need a building of this size anymore. (We're looking for a new downtown home.) We outsource our printing to Canandaigua and release a print edition six days a week. 

Online, though, is where we're having our most success. 

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Auburnpub.com, The Citizen's digital home, continues to grow. We were one of eight newspapers in our company to exceed our online subscription goal during the last fiscal year. Traffic to our website is on the rise. 

My political blog, Eye on NY, attracts thousands of visitors every week. On Thursday, I wrote six stories that were published on the blog. There will be more days like that as we head into 2020. 

To close, I wanted to share a story and a pitch. Shortly after being hired by The Citizen in 2009, I worked on a federal government story relevant to our readers here in Cayuga County. I contacted then-U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei's office for comment. An aide in his office at the time seemed confused and asked me again what news outlet I work for. After repeating my employer's name, she responded: "The Citizen never covers us." 

Without hesitation I said, "They do now." 

In nine years and 11 months at The Citizen, I've covered five members of Congress, 10 state legislators, multiple congressional and statewide elections and the 2016 presidential primaries. I go where the story is, whether that's in Washington for the formal establishment of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park or every corner of the 24th Congressional District when covering congressional campaigns. 

My political coverage is far away from the most-read content on our website, but I believe it's one of the most important parts of our news operation. 

My pitch, simply, is to subscribe. An online subscription costs as little as $5 a month. If those of you who contact me with positive comments value my work as much as you say you do, please put your money where your mouth is. 

This year is winding down, but 2020 elections aren't far off. I'm going to have a lot of stories on auburnpub.com and in The Citizen. You're not going to want to miss them. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.