Wick Communications

Good ideas and ulterior motives

In Innovation on November 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

The talented young journalists at the Rocky Mountain Collegian have done something wonderful again and the most impressive part of the whole deal is that it began as a ruse to get the paper to pay for some travel. (Full disclosure, I edited the newspaper roughly 150 years ago when I was a student at Colorado State University.)

Writers Cris Tiller and Kevin Lytle and photographer Hunter Thompson sought to answer a simple question: What is it like to be a student-athlete at a Division I college? OK, actually they had a different question in mind first: How can we get the editor to pay for us to cover the football team on the road?

“As for background, the project started when (they) drove to Utah to cover a game,” Collegian Editor-in-Chief Sam Noblett explained in an email to me. “During their seven-hour drive each way, they began scheming about how to get the Collegian to pay for them to travel more. Their brilliant plan was to come up with a huge, exciting multimedia project that would be so awesome that I couldn’t say no.”

Behold the result. “Notebook to Playbook” is simply stunning. It follows one student-athlete, BMOC and the Rams top rusher Ray Carter, as he goes about each day on the week leading up to a road game. There are photos along the way and a story each day highlighting his whereabouts as he makes his way from class to practice to dinner and bed. …

That would all be enough, but the Web and print production values are just awesome, aren’t they? The photo above is the double-truck that was part of a four-page spread kicking off the project in the paper, if I understand correctly. By the time they were done, Tiller, Lytle and Thompson had involved a half-dozen of their comrades in the project. …

They even got a national advertiser – Enterprise Rent-a-Car, which Noblett says provided a vehicle for the road trip.

We’ve been talking about stealing the idea in the Half Moon Bay Review (focusing on a high school athlete in a winter sport) and I can tell you from jump street we will not do nearly as well. We don’t have as many people with as many varied talents to throw at the project. But the idea translates well to all of our papers, don’t you think?

One key is finding the right subject. He or she should know what they are agreeing to. I think you want to find someone who is both representative and unique. For our purposes, I would try to find someone who is also taking AP classes or who works on the family farm in his “spare” time or is an Eagle Scout … something. You want someone articulate and with a story to tell.

Here’s the most important takeaway for me: The best ideas rarely come from the someone like me. They come from reporters and photographers themselves. They require effort beyond the normal call of duty and if the folks working on the project aren’t passionate about it, you’ll never pull it off. I could never assign something like this and expect something so awesome.

Clay

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