Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Archives’

Making the most of archives

In journalism on 20 Apr 2017 at 11:33 am

Crimetime augments its work with stuff from the Providence Journal archives.

What opportunities do your archives present? Might I suggest they are an under-utilized treasure trove that can add context to stories, enlighten new residents, thrill longtime neighbors and perhaps even become a — dare I say it? — revenue stream?

I got to thinking about this after reading Ken Doctor’s post on Nieman Lab.

Doctor, who writes extensively on the media, tells us of the symbiotic relationship between a podcast called Crimetown and the Providence Journal. He says the producers of Crimetown leaned on the Journal morgue for documents and research that it ultimately presented in a newsletter and on its website as extra goodies for fans of the podcast. (The podcast, by the way, has been downloaded 16 million times.)

From the piece:

“Local newspapers are an undeveloped resource,” (said Crimetown co-creator Marc) Smerling, who was nominated for a 2003 Oscar for Capturing The Friedmans. “There is a tendency for newspapers to hold tightly to their libraries. The Providence Journal was smart to recognize that sharing what they’ve collected over so many years was a way to broaden their audience and take ownership of the stories we are telling. It gives them another thing to offer their subscribers and it promotes a forward-thinking development of their brand.”

He’s certainly right about that. I routinely shoo people away from our print archives, which go back to about 1960s. I just don’t know that I want folks rummaging through our history like that. Why? Hell, I don’t know. But when I answer my own question like that, I know I should think again. … Read the rest of this entry »


First draft of history

In Newspapers on 30 Mar 2017 at 12:37 pm

Local historians unveiling a 100-year-old time capsule in Safford, Ariz., that included local newspapers.

Recently, we asked editors and publishers to put pen to paper and tell readers why their newspapers were important to their communities. They subsequently shared many of those efforts with each other and they are all heartfelt and wonderful. Here is one. It’s from David Bell, editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier. He rightly notes that the local newspaper is an historical document like no other. Enjoy. — Clay

In 2014, when a 100-year-old time capsule was discovered hidden behind a sign mounted to the exterior of the Graham County Courthouse, longtime residents eagerly anticipated the opening. A historian from the state library oversaw the opening, and from the capsule he removed a newspaper. Followed by another newspaper, then another, and yet another.

In 2016, two former Pima Elementary students remembered it was time to open a time capsule they and their classmates sealed 25 years ago, when they were in third grade. Inside were a video cassette, some stickers, pencils and a Bart Simpson doll. What caused the women to remember was a newspaper clipping one of them had come across, telling the story of the class’ plan to create a time capsule.

Earlier this year, a member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Safford contacted us about her plan to donate nearly 200 formal dresses to St. Vincent de Paul, so high school girls could have an inexpensive shopping option for prom this year. The donor mentioned that this wasn’t the first time club members donated dresses. “I have the newspaper story when we did this before; would you like to see?” she asked.

Each of these stories has one thing in common — the newspaper. … Read the rest of this entry »

Looking into our archives

In Online media on 3 Apr 2015 at 9:16 am

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At least a couple Wick publishers were approached recently about a research project, and it turns out that it could provide us all with interesting information.

Edward McCain leads the Journalism Digital News Archive at the Reynolds Institute at the University of Missouri. He has won a Knight Challenge Grant to study small newspaper archives. Specifically, he wants to determine the value of all those stories, photos and advertisements that we lovingly upload onto the World Wide Web.

He asked – and was granted – permission to comb through data Wick Communications stores on TownNews servers. It’s an unusual request, which is why I wanted to talk to him about it.

He’s particularly interested in what he calls “digital born” content, which is distinguished from stuff that newspapers may have scanned from old newspapers. He thinks this journalism from the digital age has a value and that it would be a shame if it were lost. … Read the rest of this entry »

Clip a little off the top

In journalism on 12 Jul 2012 at 8:35 pm

If you are like me, you (figuratively) run to your newspaper’s digital archives several times a day. Perhaps it’s just evidence that I’m getting older, but I often remember bits and pieces of earlier stories while the context and specifics remain just out of my mental reach.

Luckily, we can use those old clips to our advantage. Believe me, that’s much easier than it was 10 years ago – before server-based archiving.

The term “clip job” is sort of a newspapering pejorative. Cutting and pasting stuff your staff printed previously is not the highest art. And no one is suggesting you do that. But stories often build over time and you should read what’s come before so that you can add context to the story of the day. (One more caution: Remember that things change. In 2008, you may have reported that Bob Jones was found guilty of murder. His conviction may have been overturned in 2010. So be careful.)

Want an example of how it’s done correctly? Take the story of a transit cop who shot a man during a nighttime melee in Atlanta last fall. Obviously, this was a big story locally, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been reporting each development. Since October, at least three AJC reporters worked on the story. I guarantee you that each story built on the work of the one before. Each subsequent reporter referenced stuff previously reported. No one resorted to cut and paste. They deftly rewrote stuff from the past. … Read the rest of this entry »

Avoid repeating mistakes

In Writing techniques on 5 Jan 2012 at 3:47 pm

Consider this scenario:

You normally work the police beat. Most of your stories begin at the cop shop, and when they do, you know all the players intimately. You have the chief on speed dial. You know full well how to spell the name of the guy who was the PIO in 1984. You don’t need any background.

But today you walk in the door and the editor says she needs you to drop what you are about to do and write a breaking news story. The vice mayor has resigned and he’s not saying why.

OK, where do you start?

One logical place is to spend a few minutes with your own newspaper’s web archives. It’s easy to punch the vice mayor’s name in your website search dialogue box and you’re liable to get a dozen or more stories dating back many years. You spend 20 minutes combing through it all, trying to get an idea of who this man is, how he came to office, what he does outside the political world, and maybe something about his time on the high school football team.

Can you trust all that old stuff? Maybe. Probably. But be careful.

Most of us aren’t as diligent as we should be correcting old newspaper stories. Even if we have a good workable policy now, we may not have had one in 2000. That means we may have misspelled the vice mayor’s name in the past. … Read the rest of this entry »