An old newspaper friend, worried about the death of his industry, has been dragged onto a committee to deal with survival. (Boy, that sounds optimistic, eh?) He occasionally thinks of himself as being a funny guy (which is why we get along so well, I think of myself as a funny guy even though I know I’m not) and forwarded me his list of semi-tongue-in-cheek ideas.
I read it a few times, then started thinking … you know, there’s something here …
Dump the beats, make everyone general assignment, make at least two people full-time assignment editors and move the reporting focus to enterprise instead of daily community “news”.
I wonder whether you could have beat editors … maybe not with the need to be on the street, but if you had a couple of people that just generated ideas all day long. Or maybe they can’t be at a desk, what if you took the “mojo” idea and made them “moeds?” Folks who roamed communities looking for leads, phoning them in to an assignment editor who would then dispatch someone to go do the story? “Moeds” could do short, snappy things and pass on the bigger stories to an in-depth specialist.
Train and equip everyone in the newsroom with full multimedia capabilities (at the very least cameras and audio recorders) and start churning-out as much tolerable multimedia storytelling on a daily basis as we can.
Yes on part the first, hell no on the “tolerable” part. If we photo people can master another form of storytelling, why can’t the “print” reporters? It’s time they stepped up.
Go to the web-only model, print only a Sunday paper.
Given how little news makes it into the printed paper some days, this may not be a bad idea in a very wired community.
Double the numbers of towns for the town reporters, accept that some town “news” will fall through the cracks, move town reporters freed-up by this move to enterprise beats that generate more lively, featurey, stories from our towns.
See “moeds” above …
Really cut the length of what we print to facilitate the continued shrinkage of the printed product and make a real commitment to run the more in-depth and detailed versions of stories on the web.
The printed product as index to the web … teasers only … hmm …
Train more in the newsroom on the posting to the web skills so that anyone can update the web site more than just posting breaking news. This would include posting more photos from every story on the web every day (yes, this happens, but more able to do it would make it easier)
Well, duh …
Create a procedure where the night photo editor can identify extra photos to go with stories and pass those photos along to the web techs overnight so those photos get posted at 6 a.m. and not 9 or 10 a.m.. Regularly print “for more photos go to theday.com” at the end of photo captions in the paper.
If the web is your primary vehicle, why wait until even 6 a.m.? Get it out as soon as it’s ready.
Make the beat notes system more of an in-house blog/network/bulletin board. Instead of reporters just filing beat notes to an editor, they post them “publically” (okay, at least what they’re willing to share) so as to get feedback, input and help making an idea come to life.
See “moeds” … and why would a reporter NOT share story ideas with colleagues? How parochial …
Fire everyone but the editors and go to all reader generated content.
Separate opinion from news. If you’re going to write opinion in the paper and on the web site, you can’t be writing news, it totally destroys any sense of the objectivity of reporters and undermines the ability of reporters to gain the confidence of their subjects if those subjects think they might be the object of a scornful blog by the same reporter they spoke to the night before.
Have you been reading my local paper?
Embrace the blogging model and have everyone blog off their beat at least once a week.
Define “blog.” If it’s a forum to rant about the people they cover, then no. If it’s a place to put additional, shorter information, then yes. Make it daily, or even twice daily, once at the start of a shift – “Heading to Townieville for the parade, then over to the courthouse to check on the progress of the corruption trial. Check back around 4 for updates on that.” At the end of the day, after filing stories, drop other info you picked up along the way – “Five ‘FOR SALE’ signs along Main Street today, is something going on there?”