Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

White House, blue language

In Language on August 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Hey, remember when the White House employed a communications director named Anthony Scaramucci? I know. It was a long time ago. Way back last week. It seems things change pretty quickly these days, doesn’t it?

Well, if the name rings a bell, you probably remember the rant that apparently got him fired. While talking to a reporter for New Yorker magazine, he used what he later described as “colorful language” to describe his feelings about some fellow White House denizens. Colorful as in suggesting that one coworker was really, really mentally ill and another gentleman was doing something elaborate in service to his own interests… only way more colorful than that.

That left those in the mainstream media to decide whether to do what I just did and tread politely along the euphemism boulevard or to simply print what the man said, even though it was vulgar.

This time, some of the big print outlets printed words their editors likely never thought they would print. The New York Times was among them. Later, it offered a very short explanation of why top editors chose to use the profane words. In short: The newspaper thought it newsworthy.

USA Today, chose a different tack. Here is how it described Scaramucci’s comments about White House rival Steve Bannon:

Scaramucci used an explicit sexual reference to accuse Bannon of doing more to blow himself up in the media and build his own brand than to serve the country.

Huh. It’s fun to write with a wink, but personally, I agree with the New York Times on this one. … Read the rest of this entry »

Teasing weekend events

In journalism on July 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Last week, we at the Half Moon Bay Review attempted something that the Frontiersman already does in a much more effective way: Tease upcoming weekend events. So, this week, I just copied the Frontiersman format.

We had a social media roundtable in Half Moon Bay the other day that involved folks from throughout our building. We emerged thinking that, while we have long embraced social media and regularly post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Linkedin on occasion, our social efforts were scattered at best. We’ve sort of let whoever was interested post and sometimes that works … and sometimes it doesn’t. (One advantage of that approach is that there is more than one person responsible and it isn’t much of a burden. The disadvantage is that it’s no one’s job and that means it’s no one’s job.)

We wanted more regularized thinking around our social efforts. One quick idea we had was that it would be nice to have a piece that comes out, say, on Thursday that teases weekend events and such, perhaps in a more narrative way than a simple calendar listing.

Well, I made up something and slapped it on Facebook. But it didn’t give us much bang for the buck. A few hundred views, and it couldn’t really be formatted on that platform.

It turns out Jacob Mann at The Frontiersman in Wasilla, Alaska, has already got it figured out. The newspaper’s “5 things to do in the Mat-Su: Weekend of July (Whatever)” is brilliant. There is a conversational voice to it and each listing is a few paragraphs. There are three photos attached to this one to keep people clicking. I assume this is either right out of the paper or repurposed from the print product in some way. And The Frontiersman posted it on Facebook to redirect to our website. … Read the rest of this entry »

See the Medium

In publishing on June 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Have you used Medium?

If the answer is A) No, or B) What the heck is that, click here. You really should play around with Medium, if for no other reason than to understand this seamless, easy publishing platform that is available elsewhere for your readers and advertisers. In a way, it is competing for eyeballs, but it also represents an opportunity. I bet if you give it a try, you’ll like it.

Medium is a newish blogging platform that I find easier to use than WordPress or other similar things. All you have to do is create a free account, type up some thoughts and drag over a photo or two and you are publishing. I’ve used it to share silly things, to drum up interest in our Half Moon Bay Review coverage, and even to reflect on a plane crash.

This week, the Nieman Lab notes the success The Economist is having with Medium as a way to share insider information and to be more transparent with super-readers of the magazine.

One of the lessons the team at The Economist learned about Medium was that it is qualitatively different from Facebook or Twitter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Medium is a place where sophisticated readers go for quality content. Should that be important to us? … Read the rest of this entry »

SaaS and what it means to us

In Innovation on April 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Ever seen the funny-looking acronym SaaS? Last week, I read a fascinating post by David Skok that explained those four letters might be the future of our business. I figured I had better get up to speed.

Skok is on the board of directors of the Online News Association and is formerly of the Toronto Star and Boston Globe. He’s been a Harvard Nieman Fellow and is one of the thought leaders of digital news. SaaS normally stands for “Software as a Service” and refers to companies that license and deliver their software on a subscription basis. Think of the way you can pay for the Adobe suite monthly, for example. (Tech geeks also talk of Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and other such things.)

Skok wants us to think of Stories as a Service. In fact, he says that describes the current era, one that supplanted the “social media era” that he says sort of ended in 2015.

From his piece:

Those who own the relationship between the story and the reader will be at a distinct advantage over those who own the production and platforms of newsgathering and distribution.

This journalism era, paid for by readers, for readers, will result in quality journalism, trustworthiness and the building of new communities. For almost a century, journalism — in all its forms — has been funded by advertisers, and not by consumers. By having readers pay for their own journalism and using the data publishers have to listen to what their readers really want, news organizations can focus on accountability metrics like loyalty, retention and churn in ways that resemble SaaS instead of a singular focus on CPMs…

He suggests that traditional media companies like ours are now positioned to disrupt the disrupters who earlier provided platforms and search capability. What they did was amazing, but we own the relationships. … Read the rest of this entry »

Making the most of archives

In journalism on April 20, 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 »

The seven-paragraph sports story

In sports on April 13, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Here’s another revelation from our regular editor conference calls: A template for sports stories.

Several of us were discussing how to report sports in the modern era. Most people who care about the games know the result from friends on social media or phone alerts before we get the story online or in print. The day of the regular sports gamer has pretty much come and gone.

Jonathan Clark at the Nogales International shared an ingenious invention that is essentially a sports game story format. It’s a recognition that these things can be pretty rote (in fact, there are now computer programs using machine learning to write high school gamers in the blink of an eye) and that some of us are using inexperienced sports reporters who didn’t grow up at the ballpark.

The format is really a seven-paragraph template designed to get a reporter in and out of the story in a matter of minutes. It could be really helpful when all you know about a game is what a coach tells you on the phone. Simply ask him questions that would fill in the format.

So here it is. It’s not gospel. There is no rule that a quote come in the third paragraph. You can change it. Move up the stuff about upcoming games or format that into a box. Just recognize that it’s a good idea, one that you might manipulate for city council meetings or anything that requires a novice to cover something for the first time. Read on to see the format: Read the rest of this entry »

I did this thing. Please cover it.

In journalism on April 6, 2017 at 11:23 am

Why didn’t you cover my (insert thing you didn’t cover here)?

Virtually every day for the 5,363,982 days I’ve been working for a newspaper, someone has come in wanting free publicity. What do you tell these people?

For my part, I always try to be respectful and offer some avenue for a win-win. Granted, sometimes folks just won’t take no for an answer and I have been known to be less than saintly in these conversations. But nine times out of 10, we can figure out some way to share the information in a way that makes sense, and sometimes that means advertising.

The first trick is determining whether this is newsworthy on some level. Has it been done before? Is it interesting to a wide audience? Does it merit staff time? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” all parties are about to be happy. This looks like a story for the print newspaper and your website.

That’s fine if the circus is coming to town, but what if it’s smaller than that. What if it’s a kid’s Cub Scout matriculation or word of a new insurance agent? What do you do with that stuff?

My rule of thumb is this: If it’s a non-profit or an important event in the lives of real local people, I try to find a place for it. It may be a brief on a community page or even simply a post and picture on Facebook. Social media is great for stuff like this and frees up your time for bigger things in the paper. If, however, it’s commercial — like the insurance agent — I’m likely to suggest an advertisement. After all, as my wise former publisher Debra Hershon would say, “Editorial is something you pray for, advertising is something you pay for.” If the reason you walked into the newspaper office was to drum up business, you want an advertisement. … Read the rest of this entry »

I love the NYT redesign

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

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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

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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. …
Read the rest of this entry »

Editorial project idea No. 2

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

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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.

Clay