Wick Communications

Gearing up for big news

In Obituaries on October 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Last week, American political legend George McGovern died. Former President Bill Clinton said that he couldn’t think of anyone who had more impact in defeat than McGovern and that may be true. McGovern was humiliated at the polls by Richard Nixon 40 years ago, but he was also a man of conviction who represented a movement away from the war in Vietnam and the kind of jaded politics that had taken over Washington at the time.

He was also the favorite son of many South Dakotans. So when he died, it was big news there.

The Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls was ready. It was ready because it didn’t wait for the news that he had died. Staffers had been planning a proper tribute for some time. (Forgive me, I haven’t seen what our own Capital Journal produced for the occasion. I expect the Pierre paper also had extensive coverage.) …

The special section produced in Sioux Falls is the focus of an interesting report by Poynter. For some of us, this quote will sound stunning: “Unfortunately, I don’t have any crazy stories about how the pages came together. It was a fairly smooth process,” said Nathan Groepper of the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines.

It went smoothly because Groepper and many others planned it all out beforehand. They decided to organize the thing in chapters focusing on significant aspects of McGovern’s life. They leaned on others in the chain. There is a story written by a USA Today writer. Historical photos were used. If they had tried to produce that in a day, they surely would have botched it.

Are there people in your community that deserve more than a 10-inch obituary? I strongly urge you to think of the five or so folks who are both very important to the psyche of your area and not getting any younger. There is no harm in starting to compile information and a plan before it becomes news.

Clay

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