Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

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

 

Let’s talk soon

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

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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.

Clay

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…
Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Clay