The history of the Eastern Division newsletter, Trail Sweep, stretches back a long time. I have copies going back to Volume 29, No. 4, Spring/Summer of 1986. Looking through the issues, I am amazed at how far we’ve come and all the changes that have been made. We used to publish four issues a year, then three, and finally, we were down to two, although as we reduced the number of issues, they gained in size. We removed some information, like the division and region rosters and event calendar, and the list of awards and obituaries increased. We are an aging organization.
But even though we’re aging, our members are savvy and connected. An electronic survey sent to Eastern Division patrollers in late February asked their opinions about Trail Sweep and how information is being conveyed to patrollers. More than half of those sent the survey opened it, and more than 650 people responded. Nearly 200 comments were received with some interesting results–both good and bad.
While respondents said they got their information about division events almost equally from both Trail Sweep and division emails, most people preferred to get their information electronically. Increasingly, people want their news to come in a timelier manner, in short bursts, and to be readable on their portable devices. Most of the respondents (75%) read Trail Sweep every time or most of the time, and a strong majority (5 to 1) preferred to receive news monthly rather than twice a year.
Trail Sweep has been printed and mailed to the patrollers of the Eastern Division for decades, long before the age of sophisticated personal computers, the internet, and cell phones. As production and postage rates increased, we began to email a PDF file of Trail Sweep to our members. My records show we were still printing copies in 2007. I’m not sure exactly when we converted to electronic delivery.
Now, we’re responding to what our members told us in the survey. Starting with this issue, we will be publishing monthly and formatted differently. Short excerpts of articles will have clickable links to take you to the complete article. We will cover programs, events, people, and other interesting and informative subjects spread out during the year. Trail Sweep does not have an editorial staff. We depend on program advisors and administrators, as well as patrollers, for the articles we receive and publish. This is more important than ever. We want everything to be timely. If there’s something you’d like to see, let us know or, better yet, submit an article to Trail Sweep. Just remember when you’re writing that “less is more.” Photographs are always welcome.
We hope that this change will serve our members well.