Saturday, December 29, 2007


Howard Owens lays down a challenge of 11 objectives for non-wired journalists in 2008. He'll award a $100 Amazon gift certificate to anyone who meets the goals.
Other j-bloggers have joined the chorus, including Mindy McAdams and Amy Gahran.
The most important goal, in my view: Start using RSS.
As Mindy McAdams says, "I am continually shocked when I meet journalists who say they don’t read blogs. It’s inconceivable."
Indeed. But before RSS, I found keeping up with voluminous postings daunting. RSS is efficient, fast and easy. It's so important that I'd recommend RSS classes on company time for all newsroom staffers, particularly department heads and above.
This goal is not about anyone feeling stupid or out of touch. I know a technically savvy staffer with his own blogs who is just learning about RSS and pingbacks and all that stuff. He's learning now, because he knows that keeping up with what's online is crucial to his career.
The challenge from Owens launched many questions and online comments. How much company time should be spent learning and teaching this stuff? Is spending two hours a week on Youtube really worth it? (I'd say no). Should people who take their own time to learn this stuff somehow be compensated beyond those who only spend company time? Does everyone have to know all of this stuff, or can groups and organizations use the power of their size to specialize? Will the challenge launch a thousand blogs, adding to the noise level with no extra light?
Despite all the important questions, I repeat: Everyone in a news organization should know how to use RSS.
In addition, I'd add: editors and reporters should know how to follow a Twitter feed. They should know how to shoot a picture with a digital camera and upload it to a blog -- before a news event requires that they do so. Reporters should monitor Facebook and be able to judge story value beyond, "Well, there's a Facebook group about it."
Anyone who would like to experiment with posting to a blog and uploading a photo is welcome here at Innovate This. See Andria or Rich for how to get started.
And yes, those who learn this stuff should be rewarded. An Amazon gift certificate will in no way compensate for the time. But a continuing career will.

Who is reading the sports print section?

Free new research from focus groups of young readers in the Pittsburgh area is available from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. Click on "Newspaper Sports Sections Face Readership Challenges."
Not much interest in NASCAR there, but still some interesting findings:
"All participants said they look to the Web as their primary source of sports news and information, with nearly all listing it as a major media news and sports source. Group participants listed ease-of-use and access to computers as the main reason why they go to the Internet."
The research includes information about what women want from sports as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Drop-in for guests

Some J-bloggers have launched a blog carnival. Blog carnivals have been around for awhile, and they represent some interesting ideas. I can't help but think of Charlotte's crazy, out-of-control Carnevil, though, when I hear that word.
So here's another idea. Not sure whether it'll fly, but it's worth a shot. I'd love to host a holiday drop-in, with no end time, for anyone who'd like to share innovative, positive ideas here.
It could be a post about how you learned a new skill, since many of us are working on that now. Or I'd love to hear from a blogger who has built a strong community, and how she did it. I'd love to hear how it feels to reinvent yourself while reinventing journalism.
I'm happy to edit and do technical posting, and I bet Rich would be too. This place is public, so a second set of eyes is a good idea.
Some of our team members have other stuff going on now, so help is welcome.
Interested? Let me or Rich know. My neighbor-dog, who is waiting for a walk, appreciates it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ouch. Copy editor alum nails us.

Fred nails us about the stars and bars.
But I like his headline.
The telling detail: The story to which he refers likely did not go through our copy desk, even though it appeared on our website.
Update: Not true, says the copy editor who edited the story originally. It did go through our desk, and the copy editor stumbled across the "stars and bars" phrase but didn't check it with other sources, he wrote with chagrin in a note.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dead deer, live puppies and the regionals

An ode of appreciation to all who work with regional publications.

I dipped into a little live production yesterday while hiding in the CCI war room. I resized some kid pictures and also resized a puppy who needed a home.
It was the the only "cute" moment of my day, soliciting an out-loud "awww" from my colleagues.
That's the secret of regional work, and we can become immune to too many puppies, reader-submitted Christmas cards and cute kids after awhile. Walk away for a bit and come back, and you realize the emotional appeal of those sections. Leslie said the human highlight of her day yesterday was judging reader-submitted Christmas card entries, for the main paper.
Steve Yelvington posted back in March about the importance of asking readers to share their pictures of their dead deer and big fish and how many papers are doing it wrong.
"The typical suburban operation is uninspired and under-resourced, staffed by editors who are just going through the motions and reporters who are either at the very beginning or the very end of their careers. The zones are far too large. To fill columns and get pages down to the plateroom, editors pick up stories from adjacent zones.
Boring. Lifeless. No people you know. No dead deer."

Well, not in Charlotte. We'll never have enough staffers, of course, but we are doing many things right.
We're lucky to have staffers who understand that community good will and strong ties are important if we want trust and sources when we need to ask hard questions and do hard stories. It's not just about advertising.
Yelvington quoted Mary Lou Montgomery, who edits the Morris-owned Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post, who changed the way her paper handled such news when she realized the paper was losing touch with readers. Before the change, she said about her paper:

We don’t do dead deer. (We do in Charlotte, but we try to avoid putting dead deer next to cute kids).
We don’t use Polaroid pictures. (No, but we do use digital family snapshots).
We don’t print long lists of names, such as those attending a reunion. (We do in Charlotte, but we often don't boldface the names).
We don’t use pictures without accompanying names. (Well, uh, sometimes we do).
We stopped inviting pictures of the first mushroom finds of the year. (We do odd vegetables, even in the main features section).
We stopped taking pictures of the pee-wee league ball players. (Right, but we run readers' team snapshots.)
We started downplaying the beauty pageants and baby contests. (We do the debutantes, and sometimes the young women are our colleagues' children).
We stopped printing happy birthday pictures of children as part of the news package. (Never have done them. Should we?)
We stopped paying correspondents to submit “chicken dinner” news. (Well, "pay" might not be the right word).
We stopped taking pictures of newly elected club officers. (We run reader snapshots).
We stopped describing wedding gowns. (You have us there).

So amid all the buzz about "new" citizen journalism and engaging readers, we can say we've been doing some things right. For a long time. As we slog through voluminous Scrapbook files, we should remember the work is about keeping community ties strong, so we can do the big stories with credibility and trust, with our community members understanding we care about their whole lives.
Sometimes innovation is about recognizing traditional work with continuing value in a fast-changing world. Thanks to all who slog in regionals.

Cute puppies courtesy of doxieone.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Word, if I may

OK, I'm not sure this technically counts as an innovation, but I liked it as a way to add interactivity of sorts to ye olde fiber media. At the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the copy desk chooses a word of the day and features that word on the bottom of 1A, its definition and a refer to the page where it appears.

And, the feature seems to have some high-placed fans. From the paper's Words to the Wise blog:

"A Word," a copy-desk-generated feature that runs on A1 of the newspaper and in installments on this blog, has a highly placed fan in Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett recently ran into Journal Sentinel Editor Marty Kaiser and told him this story:
In the Barrett household, the first of his four children to find the newspaper's word of the day in the paper gets a dollar. A teenager pooh-poohed the idea, until a younger sibling piped up that he'd earned $19 in the last few weeks.

I'd think a logical next step could be a contest that asks readers to write the best sentence using all seven words from the previous week.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Conversations with readers

Here's another pointer to the Google Group discussion thread about Rethinking the Merc. Rich mentioned earlier; it's worth another shoutout as an example of newspaper employees engaging readers in a dialog, beyond a controlled Q&A.

Click on the most active discussion, comparing the Merc to the L.A. Times. Readers said they want more about the Venezuelan election, which played on Page 2 of The Observer. I bet our audience had similar thoughts.

Another example: The Meck Deck has thoughtful posts about gentrification in my neck of the woods, spinning off Victoria Cherry's story Thursday. I couldn't find her story quickly on our web site (admittedly, big news pushed down old stuff quickly), and I sure couldn't find thoughtful reader comments. The Meck Deck reaction to her story (with a link to the original story) had top billing at Outside.In for Charlotte.

The Meck Deck commenters look familiar, from the old threads at Mary Newsom's blog. Giving them space and reason to talk on our site adds to the value of our place. I hope they come back.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Humanity, generosity, change

Excerpts from a Rebecca Blood interview with Trine-Maria Kristensen, a Danish blogger and expert on social media. H/T to Deb Aikat's online UNC class:

"How do you think blogs can be used by businesses? Why is this important?

Humanization. "...Relationships are not build with brands but with people. We can forgive people — we can't forgive brands."

Generosity: "Generosity. Individuals inside the organization telling customers what they know. Not in order to get something back but to show that they are "large" in the good sense. (In Denmark "to be large" means that you share a lot, and are generous with your time, knowledge, fairness.)
This is important because the more knowledge you give away the more you get back. If knowledge is internal and hidden it is worthless. Mutual generosity is the glue in strong relationships."

Change. A company can use the feedback from a blog to actually change something. Or they can use the blog to talk openly about change, problems, dilemmas, difficulties or things that are just not good enough. This is important because in order to understand and embrace change we need information and to talk to someone we trust."

Trine-Maria's blog is here, but most of it's in Danish. If anyone finds an online translator for full web pages from Danish to English, please share.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Spreading the toys around

(aka If Google News can do it, why can't we?)
Kris Kringle: I keep track of the toy market pretty closely. Does that surprise you so? ... Macy's sending people to other stores? The only important thing is to make the children happy. Who sells the toy doesn't make any difference. Don't you feel that way? -- "Miracle on 34th Street"
Ro pointed me to a feature on El Nuevo Herald's Venezuela page. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see a NewsGator widget that features updating links to relevant content from other sites (such as the NY Times and Yahoo News).

Such a feature allows news sites to get Google (and Yahoo) at its own game. Plus, a quick tour of NewsGator's site shows a number of options for creating widgets that would, say, list top stories. If I'm a Charlotte blogger, or MySpace user or even a corporate site based in the area, you bet I'd consider adding some sort of customizable widget to my site.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

A New Deal for journalism

What would happen if John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller and Dorothea Lange were looking for work today?

Can you imagine Fortune magazine sending James Agee and Walker Evans to the South for eight weeks nowadays to report a story that never published in the magazine?

What would happen if we had a New Deal or Federal Writers Project for journalism now? What would happen if we had a program modeled after Teach For America for journalism?

If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them for a class project at Global Vue.

Photo courtesy of Dorothea Lange dot org.