In journalism on October 20, 2016 at 3:11 pm
When I told Sierra Vista Herald interim Managing Editor Liz Manring how much I liked this Oct. 7 front page, her response was: “This one? Really?”
Liz and her staff are perfectionists. A “perfect” front page would undoubtedly consist entirely of well researched staff-written stories full of context and bursting with art. This is not really that page.
“I don’t know that this is the best example of our best work,” she wrote to me in an email.
I agree, but that wasn’t the point I was making. As a news editor, every day my reach exceeds my grasp. I always want to produce a better newspaper than I do, and frankly that is one of the things that has always appealed to me about newspapering. Tomorrow is always a day away and that means I have another chance right around the corner.
What I liked about this page is that Liz and her staff made the most of what they had that day. And there was planning involved that might not be evident. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Video on September 22, 2016 at 4:32 pm
Green Valley News’ editor Dan Shearer and his publisher, Rebecca Bradner, were having a discussion on the use and potential expense of adding video to the news portfolio of organizations like ours and that discuss turned into an email. I asked Dan if I could share it. What follows are his thoughts.
As you can see, one decision to make early is the trade off between quality vs. quick. Costly vs. next-to-nothing. Generally speaking, I think quick and easy trumps more labor-intensive productions, and I think Dan would agree. Take it away, Dan.
Video doesn’t have to be television quality.
We made this mistake early on at The Arizona Republic. We put reporters through 40 hours of video training. When they were done, they could put together a high-quality piece of work in about eight hours — interviews, taping, editing, headlines, voice over, everything.
What we found was that it delivered few page views (and back then, advertisers weren’t interested). Readers also didn’t have the attention spans for two- or three-minute videos to complement a story. And we didn’t have the resources. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Editing on August 18, 2016 at 4:08 pm
Sometimes, the most obvious things in our communities are the least-covered aspects. Sometimes, stuff is so ubiquitous that it feels like everyone already knows it and that makes it the opposite of news.
Sometimes, as a result, we miss the boat.
That was not the case at the Sierra Vista Herald, which recently completed a series called, “Those who Served.” It was a three-part series that ran on successive Sundays and looked at the lives of people who successfully transitioned from the military life that is synonymous with living in Sierra Vista and life as a civilian.
Stories were written by staffers Derek Jordan, Eric Petermann and Christine Steele, as well as freelancer Kay Poiro. The photos were taken by the newspaper’s Mark Levy. Together, they looked at how different generations have handled the transition, how educational courses have helped and how individuals have found their niches. … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on June 23, 2016 at 2:17 pm
Want to know why someone would buy the local newspaper? Take a look at the June 12 edition of the Sierra Vista Herald. Above the fold, six columns and six inches deep is a five-year-old photo of black smoke accompanied by these words:
Five years ago today, a blaze started just north of the border with Mexico. The Monument Fire, as it came to be called, burned more than 30,000 acres and left a lasting impact on Sierra Vista and the surrounding area. But amid the chaos of lost homes, fierce flames and billowing smoke, a community rallied together. Five years later, we share some of those stories.
Below are breakouts on animal evacuees, fire chiefs, businesses, families who lived through it and more. The newspaper created a hashtag, #5YRFIRE, so that readers could share their photos online. There is a QR code inside that takes readers to YouTube interviews with people who lived through the Monument Fire.
I was humbled to see such fine, thoughtful work about an event that changed the community forever. Far too many news teams would have let this slide or written a 15-inch story with a single horizontal photo remembering something that couldn’t possibly be contained that way. … Read the rest of this entry »
In Ideas on May 12, 2016 at 3:11 pm
I have no idea who these two guys are, but they are clearly fans of The Green Valley News. They submitted this photo, apparently while visiting their seventh continent, and it will be duly noted on the newspaper’s photo gallery set up expressly for this purpose.
Both Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer and I are sort of amazed that people take the local paper on their jaunts around the world. I would have thought the immediate gratification of Facebook would have rendered something like this quaint, but there you go.
Dan says about 200 people submitted photos in 2013, the first time the paper asked for them.
“We did a big splash on the features page, highlighting our favorite photos on the backdrop of a big globe,” he wrote in an email. “It ended — we thought.”
Except it didn’t. So far this year, 30 people have submitted photos of their travels. Dan has the good sense to let them and is continuing to document the jaunts online in a slideshow. I wonder: Could you geotag each of these and then render them on a map? Would readers like to see where their neighbors are vacationing? Would a travel agent or an insurance agent or some other local provider sponsor a product like that? … Read the rest of this entry »
In Associated Press on April 7, 2016 at 11:23 am
Dan Shearer at the Republican Club of Green Valley. Courtesy of the club.
This week, each of our newspapers received a memo asking that they send AP release letters in advance of what will be an eventual move away from the wire service. I’m quite sure this was met with angst in some places. Though I think it’s the right move for our community products for the reasons I explained in that memo, I understand there might be trepidation.
That’s why I was glad to receive this email from Dan Shearer, editor of our Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun. He said I could reprint it here, so I’m giving you a slightly edited version. Take it away, Dan:
Wow, (ditching AP is a) big move. Overdue, too.
We did this about three or four years ago. … Within two months, we’d dropped nearly all AP from the news side and cut the wire editor’s hours from 40 to 20. And the paper got better (even with a couple of layoffs that year). Finally, we had a focus (local, local and local).
Here’s what I’d recommend people check in on right away: … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on March 31, 2016 at 12:07 pm
The Bisbee Review’s own Christine Steele earned a huge honor this week when she was named a Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellow for Public Service Journalism at the Marquette University College of Communications.
Just how big is this? The other two fellows for the 2016-17 academic year are Pulitzer Prize winners.
Steele told me she will spend much of her nine months in Milwaukee researching and writing about the issue of homelessness and the uneven services the homeless receive from private companies that have huge public contracts. She will work with Marquette journalism students who will help to research these issues and produce a spectacular piece of public service journalism with roots in Southern Arizona.
Steele’s opportunity began almost the moment she walked in the door at The Bisbee Review. …
Read the rest of this entry »
In Ideas on August 27, 2015 at 4:53 pm
The News-Herald in Lake Havasu did something simple and cool recently and I wanted to mention it here in the hope that if gave you some good ideas.
On the front page of one August edition is a photo of members of the Acoma tribe of Indians and the headline, “It’s pronounced ‘ACK-uh-muh.’ The lede begins: Hundreds of drivers use Acoma Boulevard every day, but everybody is pronouncing the street’s name incorrectly, says local anthropologist Jay Cravath.
What follows is a short story that is all of five paragraphs explaining the root of the word. It wouldn’t surprise me if that is the most read feature in the newspaper that day. I know I was hooked.
Stuff like this is the stuff of life. Read it and you have something to talk about with your wife at the dinner table.
I thought of it as just a sort-of slice of life, but it’s a close cousin to a history piece. Many of us regularly run local history pieces, often penned by our town historian. I wasn’t always a big fan of this sort of thing. It does feel kind of lazy when the columns just roll in with some black-and-white photo, but my feelings have changed. No one else is telling readers how to pronounce that boulevard across the way. Information like this is what makes our publications unique and part of the towns we serve.
Incidentally, the News-Herald counts 13 other streets in town named for native Americans. Trivia? History? Whatever. It makes me pick up the newspaper.
In Writing techniques on August 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm
In general, I think newswriters depend way too much on quotes. If you are of a certain age, you were taught the inverted pyramid style of newswriting and that you needed some kind of quote long about the third to fifth graph. The corollary is that a pithy quote is often just the way to end your story. And I know: Sometimes you feel naked without those quotes in your story.
The result is that we have burdened readers with landfills worth of worthless quotes that don’t tell and instead sort of rephrase what’s already in the lede. Don’t feel you simply must have a quote up high in your story.
“But Clay,” you say so that I can get that quote up high in this post, “what kind of world are you leaving us? We want to put the story in the words of our sources whenever possible, don’t we?”
Take Walter Mares’ somewhat incredible story about a rather mundane event in Clifton, Ariz. It appeared in The Copper Era on Aug. 5.
The story is essentially that these two guys were working on their vehicle in a warehouse of some kind. They poured some gasoline in the malfunctioning carburetor in a time-tested – if entirely unsafe – attempt to get some fuel into the engine and prime the pump, as it were. When that didn’t work, these two gentlemen did it again. … Read the rest of this entry »
In journalism on June 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm
I want to point your attention to a wonderful series in the Sierra Vista Herald dealing with the local homeless population. (I’d link but apparently there are website archiving issues with the Herald at this writing.) It began with this amazing portrait taken by local photojournalist Jacob Petersen and his terrifically empathetic story of people who in many cases simply choose to live outside in his community.
From there, the project branched into several parts and before it’s done will involve reporters Derek Jordan and Christine Steele as well.
Herald Editor Eric Peterman said in an email that it began like this: “I asked if (Jacob, who is a former Herald reporter) was interested in being homeless for a week and he liked the idea … It ended up being four days, off and on, with two overnight stays.”
That is quite a commitment and the result is powerful.
I love seeing inclusive stories like this in our newspapers, stories that acknowledge all of the people around us. Too often, our less fortunate or more eclectic citizens are something like invisible. They don’t have PR agencies to herald their achievements. They aren’t straight-A students or city officials. That doesn’t mean they are lesser citizens, and the Herald’s work makes that clear. … Read the rest of this entry »