Matt Lindberg called from The Montrose Daily Press the other day. He wanted to brainstorm ideas for the holidays. He dared verbalize what we all know: Sometimes our papers take a holiday as we get closer and closer to New Year’s. In fact, he gets credit for the term “holiday snooze.”
The holidays are wonderful in many ways, but they also present a perfect storm in your newsroom. More ads mean more space to fill. Fine employees want and deserve time off with family, even if it’s only a couple days for the regular holidays. Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes into hibernation. Government and schools close. Many sports and nonprofits slow down. … You are not alone. All newspapers struggle to stay aggressive and relevant in December.
I don’t know how much it helped, but I suggested Matt might think about three categories of stories. (Again, this isn’t revolutionary thought. But perhaps you haven’t thought about it in just this way:
Evergreens. Stories that don’t require some news event to propel them. Off the top of my head, I thought these might include local winter destinations, year-in-review kinds of stories, sports highlights from the year gone by. (See more in the list at the top of this post.)
Holiday stuff. This is ground you’ve already covered, and probably cover every year. School events, the local Christmas tree business, traditions like live Nativity scenes. …
Enterprise. This is the one that often goes overlooked. But if you think of them as just more complicated “evergreens,” maybe you can get a couple done. What if you looked at Guidestar to drill down on the effectiveness of your local holiday charities? How about providing follows on, say, your five most-read stories of the year? How about a real, in depth look at a new law or laws that take effect on Jan. 1? (The Colorado Legislature passed a bill allowing employees to look at their own personnel files held by their private employers. I suggested Matt might talk to a local HR director, maybe a labor leader, perhaps the legislator who authored the bill. Why the change? Do local businesses have any concerns?)
I know this doesn’t solve the problem of more space/fewer hours/gone sources, but you might try brainstorming ideas into those three categories then divvying them up.