Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

I love the NYT redesign

In Design on March 3, 2017 at 9:13 am


I love the newly redesigned A2 and A3 in the New York Times so much that I dropped the paper and sat down to tap this out. If you are looking for a constructive way to fill space when your AP contract runs out, read on. This is it.

The idea, according to a note that appeared on the day the new look was unveiled, was to provide a “a quick and engaging roundup” of what is found in the Times that day.

Page 2, at least today, includes the masthead, a table of contents, a “This Date in History” pulled from past editions, and a 400-word column called “Inside the Times,” which tells some inside baseball.

Page 3 is one-paragraph summaries of inside stories, a quote of the day, a look at the most viewed stories online, something called “spotlight” that might be a couple paragraphs about something you posted on Facebook with a photo, and a small bite called “Here to help.” It is a tip riffing off something in the news. (Today, it’s a suggestion that you watch the film classic “All about Eve” in advance of a new television series about the acrimony between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.)

I could do something like this for our paper in an hour. Once the template was in place, I could paginate it in 45 minutes (because I’m slow.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Editorial project idea No. 3

In Ideas on February 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm


Steve Gray is a former publisher of the Christian Science Monitor and a former director of the API’s Newspaper Next project, which some of you will remember. He began at newspapers much like our own. His first job in the business was as a darkroom tech at his family’s newspaper, the Monroe (Mich.) Evening News.

These days he keeps a blog called MediaReset. Last week, he offered an idea that would be an interesting one for us to try. Those of you looking for a new editorial project in the second quarter, might consider it.

Gray says in the early 1990s he was concerned about some small-town shenanigans in Monroe and he hit on an idea.

I started to think about who really pulled the strings in our community. Who operated behind the scenes? Who could apply pressure or persuasion and get things done — or stop them?

I didn’t really know, although I had some ideas. I’d heard that this or that individual was quietly powerful or influential, but the only people who were routinely visible as decision-makers were the elected officials. … We came up with the idea of doing it with a survey. We decided that the best way to conduct it was to send it to a list of people we were certain had power or influence, asking them to name others who did. …
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Editorial project idea No. 2

In Ideas on February 16, 2017 at 6:28 pm


In a city with 17,000 vacant buildings, The Washington Post chronicled the life and death of a single block built in 1905 that has housed generations of families.

So begins a Medium post by Steve Hendrix of the Washington Post. One of the nation’s great news enterprises set out to tell the story of one block of Baltimore rowhouses — and in so doing, a piece of the city’s own history — before it was demolished. Along the way, a Post photographer took 8,000 images and reporters interviewed dozens of people with a connection to the block. They chronicled the change from a racially mixed area to an all-black part of town after white people fled America’s inner cities for the suburbs after World War II.

It’s a jaw-dropping project, right down to the marketing on social media. There is a lot here for us to learn.

Imagine doing something like this on a smaller scale in your town. Is your city about to demolish an historic old building? Is one about to fall of it’s own accord? You could do this to great effect with a 100-year-old private home. Tell us who lived there through the years.

This would make a great editorial initiative in 2017.



Let’s talk soon

In Communication on February 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm


One of my personal goals for the coming year is to reconnect with Wick editors. To that end, I would like to set up some phone calls.

I know, I know. No one is clamoring for more conference calls. But I think it’s important that we talk more often, that we share solutions to common dilemmas, that we discuss our collective passion for community journalism.

To that end, I’m going to set up monthly phone calls with editors by region. I want these calls to be small enough to be intimate and meaningful. I think doing it on a regional basis lessens the time-zone problem and could create synergies between our shops that have similar reader interests. I will do everything in my power to set them up at a convenient time for all.

On first blush, I am thinking one call will be for Arizona editors, another for Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado, and a third for the Dakotas, Montana, Louisiana and North Carolina.

These calls will not take long. Definitely less than an hour. The first might be just a get-to-know one another call and in following months we might talk about achieving the 2017 goals spelled out in another post today, proper use of social media, photography tips, FOIA requests — I’m completely open to your topic suggestions.

So don’t be surprised when I touch base in the next couple of weeks asking what times work for you.


Tough decisions on deadline

In Ethics on February 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm
John Green / Half Moon Bay Review

John Green / Half Moon Bay Review

Recently, one of our editors called me and I could hear the concern in her voice. She was shaken after hearing from relatives of the victim of violence in her town. They didn’t like that the newspaper included unsavory aspects of the deceased’s past.

So the question today: What counts as newsworthy after someone has died?

The truth is there is no right answer. You could argue successfully that a crime victim’s past arrest is unrelated to what happened to the victim. You could argue that the arrest is public record, previously reported and adds context. The calculus likely changes depending on the deceased’s public profile.

I think finding the balance requires sophisticated reasoning, and I wanted to talk about it.

I told the editor that, in my opinion, including past felony convictions toward the bottom of the story is not only defensible, but preferable in this particular instance. The story involved a public act of violence and subsequent police chase that ended in another death. It was the talk of the town.

In addition, the previously reported arrests were also popping up in social media posts around the incident. The news was “out there.” … Read the rest of this entry »

Carry a marshal’s baton

In Business on January 12, 2017 at 2:46 pm
Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

When I was working as a young journalist in Georgia, the name Conrad Fink was legendary. And not just for those amazing eyebrows. By then, he had been a journalism professor at the University of Georgia for three decades. He was a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and eventually a vice president of the news service. He wrote a dozen books.

One of them was called, “Strategic Newspaper Management” and it was published in 1988. When you think of all that has changed on the media landscape since then (he writes that he expects the boom times for newspapers to continue for decades… whoops), it’s interesting to note what hasn’t changed. Specifically, the need for newspaper managers to plan for the future, to understand that top-down edicts will draw eye rolls, and the hope that young reporters consider the future. The book is sort of dedicated to that last belief. It begins:

Many of Napoleon’s foot soldiers, it is said, carried marshal’s batons in their knapsacks, such was the French leader’s reputation for spotting and promoting talent in the ranks…
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A newspaper is born

In journalism, Uncategorized on January 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm
Brinkley, Ark. Courtesy Wiki Commons

Brinkley, Ark. Courtesy Wiki Commons

Here is to Hayden Taylor. May he bring journalism to Brinkley, and new ideas to our industry.

I love this story by Stephen Steed of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat and Gazette, outlining plans of an ambitious 19-year-old bent on reviving a community newspaper that was almost lost to a fire last month. (I’m interested in the subject matter, of course, but Steed provides wonderful detail throughout and reveals a real empathy for the town and its people.)

Taylor confesses he has little journalism training. I am sure there was a day when I would have poo-pooed any plans of a precocious kid who says he will just get a couple books and learn how to do this reporting thing, but that day has passed. We need ambitious, audacious young people in this business more than we need book-learning. We have long passed being able to lean on dogma about the way things should be done.

I might question his decision to axe the opinion page (particularly since his dad is on the city council and stands to benefit from a lack of local opinion), but mine isn’t the last word on such things. I’m very sure Taylor — whose family has been in Brinkley for five generations — knows the community better than I.

Importantly, for me, Taylor says he understands his contemporaries lean on Facebook for their news. He says he doesn’t think that is good enough. That is very encouraging. Because it’s not good enough. And we should encourage any teenager who says as much and puts his money where his mouth is.

You go, Hayden Taylor. Best of luck with the Monroe County Herald.


Our common values

In journalism on December 8, 2016 at 11:18 am
Martin Baron at The Boston Globe.

Martin Baron at The Boston Globe.

By now, many of you have probably seen the brilliant speech delivered by Washington Post Editor Marty Baron upon being presented with the Hitchens Prize last week. If not, you should really take the time to read it. Our business is about 20 percent inspiration. Take it where you can find it.

Baron argues for a way forward in an environment in which the president-elect openly vilifies our profession by calling us “disgusting,” “scum,” “lowlifes” and “the enemies.” The answer? Barron says it lies in the pursuit of truth.

Baron famously pushed The Boston Globe investigative staff to force the Catholic church to release records implicating high-level officials in a decades-long child abuse scandal. The church was and probably still is the most powerful institution in New England. It took great intestinal fortitude to chase the truth in the story that was outlined in the movie “Spotlight.” We all need a little more of that now.

The stakes are much higher than the future of our individual news organizations. Baron quoted CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour to make the point:

“This is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al,” she said upon begin honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists. “First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison—and then who knows?” … Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding holiday snooze

In journalism on December 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm


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. … Read the rest of this entry »

I like Ike, and Ike likes me

In Newspapers on November 17, 2016 at 4:59 pm


I ran across this old house ad in the morgue of The Half Moon Bay Review today. It appeared in the newspaper exactly 50 years ago this this month. (It actually appeared twice in the same newspaper. Apparently, then publisher Eddie Bauer had some space to fill…)

The same newspaper contains a full-page advertisement suggesting locals vote for a guy named Ronald Reagan for governor. I think he used to be an actor…

Taken together, the once and future presidents pointed to the importance of newspapers in 1966. The fact that Reagan was taking out big advertisements in little newspapers shows that he thought them the best way to reach the local population. And it is heartening to think that a former president like Dwight D. Eisenhower would keep such a high opinion of the press even after his term was over.

I can’t quite imagine our current president-elect lending similar sentiment to the work of “the American newsman.” … Read the rest of this entry »