Behind The Scenes
30Apr/120

Budget for May 1, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 1, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
29Apr/120

New discussion, old topic (re-visiting the Friday edition)

A truncated version of a letter to the editor which ran last week:

Unfortunately, I have to agree with earlier writers, the Friday edition is a sham and a slap in the face to the readership. ... It’s obvious to me your owners are looking only for quick profits — damn the readers, damn the advertisers. Well, good luck folks. You should be hanging your heads.

It occurs to me that the switchover to the new Friday pre-dates my time doing this blog, so I wanted to take the opportunity to either remind or inform readers of what the ultimate goal was in switching the Friday Reformer from a typical daily paper to the community-first newspaper folks have been seeing for the past several months.

*****

On January 6, we published the culmination of several months' worth of work: the new Reformer Extra.

When working on a project that could so drastically alter a product the community is used to, it's sometimes easy to get lost in the minutia -- the smaller elements that make up the whole -- so much so that when it comes time to relay your vision -- your plans -- to others, you forget about the big-picture.

That's what happened when I began to inform readers of our plans -- through news stories and radio interviews. But, after seeing the overwhelming response from that first issue, several meetings were held between myself, the publisher and other members of the Reformer staff. As I said in an editorial after the first issue ran, "The fact is, as with any new project, the Reformer Extra will need to be modified over the coming weeks to present a what we ultimately hope will be an embraced addition to your weekly reading."

What is the Friday Reformer (or, for some, the Reformer Extra)? Our goal is to present our readers with a piece that celebrates the community and offers the "news" so many ask us to publish on a daily basis. That includes a more comprehensive calendar of events, local health and business news, and lifestyle features (like wedding and birth announcements), along with news analysis and columns.

What the newsroom is doing on a day-to-day basis is not changing. We still cover the community, from all corners of Windham County, to the best of our ability each and every week. The reality is, how we present that news is changing, and will continue to change in the coming years.

Anyone who's listened to me during my weekly appearance on WKVT (1490AM Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m.) has heard me talk about the changes in the newsroom. Ten years ago, I doubt any readers would have expected up to the minute information from the Reformer about a local tragedy, yet just this past year, with the help of you, the readers, we had minute-by minute accounts of the shooting at the Brattleboro Co-op and flooding from Tropical Storm Irene online via our website and Facebook accounts. More recently, we were able to break news during the weekend, when we traditionally don't publish (the shooting in Chesterfield, N.H., and robbery of the TD Bank on Main Street in Brattleboro).

There is news in the Friday paper, it just might not be the news folks are used to. That doesn't mean it's not valuable, or important. In many ways, Friday's Reformer is the ultimate community edition, featuring submitted community, calendar and news items, a lot of locally produced columns (on cooking, health and gardening), alternate (community) sports features we typically have not run, along with several staff produced news analyses, features and news items.

I hope readers continue to watch what we are attempting to do with Friday's Reformer, and continue to offer their much-appreciated suggestions. Please know, in the end, we are only trying to give you a well-rounded collection of community news.

29Apr/120

Budget for April 30, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the April 30, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
27Apr/120

Budget for April 28, 2012 weekend edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the April 28, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
26Apr/120

Budget for April 27, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the April 27, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
26Apr/120

Re-thinking journalism?!

The website Paid Content posted an article today on how the nation's technological "leaders" are re-imagining what today's news stories need to look like. (Read the full article, here.)

Some points to note:

From Google’s head of news products and Google+ programming, Richard Gingras: “Do we not deserve to rethink the architecture of what a ‘story’ is, the form of presentation and narrative to meet the needs of people who are consuming, not just by articles? ... As Larry Page once said to me, ‘Why don’t reporters don’t do more footnoting?’”

From Facebook’s journalism manager Vadim Lavrusik: “People want analysis from journalists.” He showed data from the social network’s recent engagement with news brands suggesting "posts with journalists’ analysis receive 20 percent more referral clicks (than others).”

Author Robert Andrews broke the article out into the following bullets (my thoughts in parenthesis after each item):

-- Kill the article (well, not so fast ...)
-- Context is King (as it always has been)
-- SQL at J-school (for years it's been said journalism schools miss important fundamentals of being a professional journalist*)
-- Less is More (not always the case)
-- Nevermind the homepage (don't tell the business offices that!)
-- Find the Niche in the haystack (fine for websites; not so practical for newspapers)

(*Those fundamentals I refer to are things like: How to handle cold-calling a family who just lost a loved one; Time management; Multi-tasking.)

“Most newsgathering is still done in a very traditional way,” Lavrusik told Andrews. “In too many places, it’s still ‘this is what’s happening’, not contextualising what’s happening. What needs to change is – there’s a lack of discovering why this is happening, the context.”

We'll it's a journalist's job to provide context, so if they aren't doing so what does that say about them?

By no means am I saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it." I'm just saying neither the industry nor the readers are in need of a complete overhaul.

25Apr/123

Sensitivity in reporting

This afternoon there was a head-on collision in Brattleboro, which lead to police closing down a portion of Route 30 for much of the afternoon. It was one of those calls that came over the police scanner where you just knew you had to get a reporter over to the scene.

Ultimately, since we're short-staffed this week (due to vacations and an open position), day editor Bob Audette went out to the scene, and met photo editor Zach Stephens over there. Both equipped with (smart) phones, I was able to talk to them and pull information from the scanner to begin breaking news via Facebook and Reformer.com.

From the moment we began posting information (which became quite the full-time effort for at least an hour), questions from readers came flooding in to the newsroom -- some we could answer, some we could not.

We were also able to get live images from the accident scene as Brattleboro Fire Dept. officials attempted to extract what appeared to be a driver from one of the vehicles, while the police conducted a field sobriety test on the other driver.

Here's an interesting exchange from our Facebook page related to those images:

"Maybe the reformer should consider who is viewing these pictures etc. I for one would be very upset to view the accident pictures here if they were my friends or families cars involved."

"The flip side is that I have family traveling in that area that I am unable to make contact with and thanks to the photos know mine are safe."

Even in this day of fast and furious reporting, and a need of immediacy for information, it's important to remember your policies and efforts to maintain sensitive and ethical reporting. In this case, as each image was remotely uploaded to Facebook, I went through them looking for certain elements: Were victims identifiable? Are the license plates visible? Are we showing anything we wouldn't normally print in the paper? The answer to each of those questions was no (though I did pull down at least two images I thought may be close to the line).

Even though the means by which we provide our news may change, we can never forget why we're considered trusted, reliable journalists.

Check out the (updated) breaking story here.

And here's a final comment from the Reformer Facebook page which reminds me why we go through all the effort with a story like this:
"Thanks for doing such a great job of keeping us informed, greatly appreciated."

25Apr/120

Budget for April 26, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the April 26, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
24Apr/120

Boston Globe (temporarily) knocks down the paywall

The website PaidContent.org is reporting today that the Boston Globe, in an effort to jumpstart online subscriptions, is allowing readers who plug in their e-mail addresses free access to its online content.

Will the 12 day trial run be a success, or just lead to a temporary bump in online numbers? Only time will tell. It's a similar experiment that has been employed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal ... even here at the Reformer when we wanted to get news of our (at the time) new e-edition (electronic replica of the daily paper) out to potential readers.

"BostonGlobe.com launched last October but so far sign-ups have been sluggish. The site has only attracted 18,000 paid subscribers so far.

Of course, the "freebie" is being sponsored (I'm sure at a hefty rate) so, at the very least, it'll add-up for the end-of-month bottom line.

The Globe is also offering a 99-cent week introductory offer the first eight weeks. The site is free for print subscribers.

In the end, experiments like this only work if you're truly able to show readers that what you have to offer is worth their money. It's a struggle every newspaper with a paywall is struggling with.

24Apr/120

NY Times talks digital revenue (it isn't good)

Last week, the New York Times released a report stating its online revenue had fallen by about 2 percent. Not too serious, objectively speaking, but when you consider the source (the NY Times) and the fact that many in the industry watch to see the moves it makes to weather the constant "digital storm" ... well, let's just say folks take notice.

Later in the day, during an earning call, blame seemed to be placed on the larger, global economic situation. While larger urban markets have been suffering for years, and the trickle down is beginning to have noticeable effects in smaller community markets (like here in Brattleboro), it was only a matter of time before the global newspapers (like the Times and USA Today) began to really feel the shift.

Consider this report from Jeff John Roberts for PaidContent.org (find it in its entirety, here), which reads, in part:

"On the call, New York Times executives remained bullish about the company’s overall strategy of building a global digital brand starting with a core of hyper-engaged users.

The company touted its latest count of 454,000 paid digital subscribers which is a 16 increase from the prior quarter, and coincides with the one year anniversary of its “levered paywall.” It added that the decision to reduce the number of paywall-free articles to ten from twenty had led to more paying subscribers.

Executives also said they were pleased with the conversion rate of 100,000 readers who had been given free subscriptions at the outset of the paywall program. The NYT would not give a conversion rate but only said it had gone 'extremely well.'"

Also of note, digitally speaking, from that report:

-- About.com continues to flounder with a 23 percent drop in revenue and 50 percent drop in profit from a year ago

-- BostonGlobe.com, relaunched in October, drew 13 percent last quarter but still has only 18,000 paid subscribers

While here in Vermont we continue to see large gains in readership (through our website and various social media efforts) it will be interesting to see how that increased audience transfers to our digital revenue efforts.