Behind The Scenes
31Jul/120

Budget for Aug. 1, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Aug. 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
31Jul/120

Who says there's no more jobs in the industry?

A new report from Neiman Journalism Lab today shines a light on the new Digital First Media project Thunderdome. (For those who don't know, DFM is the umbrella under which the Reformer now resides.)

The idea behind Thunderdome, as Adrienne LaFrance puts it, is to "create a new infrastructure that will serve hundreds of local newsrooms still burdened by inefficiencies borne of a bygone era in journalism."

(Read LaFrance's entire piece: "Still without a team in place, Project Thunderdome gets a surprise test drive.")

In short, this means centralizing some similar aspects from the family of newspapers. Why have 50-plus editors in 50-plus newsrooms build a page of national or international news, when you could have one person build one page and share it across the 50-plus newsrooms?

Personally, I think this is a great idea, as it frees up local journalists to focus on local news gathering, production and publication. Of course, the one issue faced with such an idea is that, while a 30- or 40-page large-scale newspaper in an urban market may have a lot of room for that type of shared content, small-scale, small-market newsrooms sometimes struggle with fitting enough outside-the-area news as it is, with so much space dedicated (and rightly so) to local news.

Nonetheless, I wanted to highlight a little more of LaFrance's piece, and encourage everyone to see how the idea behind such a project becomes a valuable tool to all newsrooms.

"Not only are news organizations actually hiring these days, they’re looking to fill new positions. You could, for example, apply to become the first ever SWAT Leader at Project Thunderdome. ... with a slew of new job listings just posted (and more to come), Thunderdome’s day-to-day operations are beginning to take shape.

"The SWAT Leader, I’m told, will be a newsy jack of all trades. Someone who can report, write, edit, and produce. Someone who’s willing to parachute into a faraway town on a moment’s notice. Basically someone who is up for any assignment, and has the skills and enthusiasm to dive in head-first.

"That last part is essential for anyone looking to join the Thunderdome team, which will require a basic startup mentality: Be willing to work, play, try, and fail in eight different ways a day. Then show up to work with a smile, ready to do it all again the next day."

The bulk of the article covers the Colorado theater shooting from earlier this month. While in print we relied on Associated Press' coverage of the tragedy, online we were able to offer unique Digital First content via one of my new favorite online tools: Storify. (See the screencap on this post.)

I'm sure this will be the first of many (potentially exciting) new developments from the Thunderdome project. And, in the end, if it allows us to offer readers better news coverage, either of national, international (have you seen our 2012 Olympics coverage?) or -- most importantly -- local news, then that's all that matters.

30Jul/120

Budget for the July 31, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the July 31, 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
30Jul/120

Future plans

We're working on a couple of upcoming projects in the newsroom that will require a lot of manpower and some help from the community.

First up: A one-year retrospective on the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene (Aug. 28, 2011). We're planning a special edition of the newspaper for the last weekend in August, to fill with retrospectives, interviews, re-prints, photos and much more. Plus, as an added bonus, I'll be working for the next few weeks on an online landing page with plenty of "bells and whistles." (You can already get a taste for the project on this board over on our Pinterest site.)

We'll have a staff meeting (one of many) later today, and then brainstorm for the next week. While a month may seem like plenty of time to pull a project like this together, when you factor the regular routines for the week in it becomes a little more daunting.

Later this fall, we're working on a 100 year retrospective of the Brattleboro Reformer, which turned 100 this past spring. What form that will take remains to be seen, though I'd imagine we'll put together a special product for release in October. (More on this one as it develops.)

In the meantime, if you have any ideas on what we should be considering for any of these upcoming projects, remember my door is always open. Or, if you prefer, e-mail and phone is just as good.

29Jul/120

Budget for July 30, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the July 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
27Jul/120

Budget for July 28, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the July 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
27Jul/120

The death of editorial cartoons?!

No, no, NO!

Susie Cagle (daughter of renowned editorial cartoonist Daryl Cagle) sat down with Imprint, the online "community" for Print Magazine (they "expand the design conversation"), and declared, among other things, that the days of editorial cartoons are numbered. (Read her entire interview, here.)

"I have always loved what cartoons bring to media, but they've been first on the chopping block, of course. Single-panel editorial cartooning is dying as newspapers are contracting, and those jobs aren't being replicated on the web. Many news sites don't have art directors or designers. I think we're reaching a tipping point, though, where people are missing not just comics but original illustration. All media is in flux right now. "

[Point of full disclosure: One of my favorite elements of journalism is the editorial cartoon.]

I must admit, Cagle does have a point. Several years ago, when looking for a way to reallocate costs in the newsroom, I was forced to give up submissions from a local cartoonist. (Though, to be fair, and I did explain to him as well, for what I was paying per cartoon, I was getting a month's worth of unlimited content from an online provider -- coincidentally run by Ms. Cagle's father.)

Cagle goes on to discuss her new work of literally reporting the news through art, and interesting concept to be sure (though I don't see too many newspapers turning into comic books of news). It's a logical step: editorial cartoons reflect and opine on the news, why not use that medium to literally report the news?

"I don't think the web is to be feared. It lets us do great new things, especially with breaking news. I drew and painted a two-panel cartoon at a gallery event in San Francisco Tuesday night while following the Anaheim riots on my phone, and posted it on Twitter, while it was drying."

Cagle's illustration from Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the value of editorial cartoons is often understated, and I think as long as there's newspapers, there will be a place to find them.

27Jul/120

Defending our work (more discussion on editor's notes)

Several weeks ago we ran a news feature regarding the founder of Marlboro College Graduate School's sustainability program leaving the school. It wasn't clear that departure was something both parties wanted, but we tried to report on the matter as objectively as possible.

After the story ran, the reporter was approached about a "questionable" quote from a member of the school's faculty.

-- From a letter in Friday's Reformer:

We, the undersigned, who teach in the Marlboro MBA program, would like to correct an error in a recent article (“Founder of Marlboro’s sustainability pro­gram to leave,” July 3).

This article misquotes Associ­ate Dean Sean Conley as saying “Though Meima put his personal stamp on the program, Meima was not teaching.” The facts were that he wasn’t teaching at the time of the article because the Foundations course was not scheduled for this term.

Throughout his tenure as direc­tor, Ralph Meima has been a val­ued member of the faculty as well as an administrator. Ralph actively taught two courses, both of which he also co­designed: Foundations of Sus­tainable Business — from 2009 through 2011, and Exploring Sustainability in 2008/2009.

We wish Meima well in his future endeavors. We also understand that change is hap­pening and we look forward to the continued vibrancy of the MBA program.

The editor's note which ran with the letter simply read: We stand by the content of the article.

One of the most important things a reporter should keep is detailed notes for any story he/she writes. You never know when a question may arise. (A recording of an interview is even better, but there are many times that's simply not a viable option.)

In this case, the reporter in question kept detailed notes from the meeting referenced in the letter. Furthermore, the specific question and answer were highlighted as important to the story.

Of course, we discussed this issue with the school prior to the letter being published; As for the editor's note, we decided on a "less is more" approach. The last thing I want to create is a "they said / they said" situation. Ultimately, what's most important is that people feel comfortable to correct the record or offer a clarification, using whatever venue they feel comfortable with.

When a newspaper, or newsroom, or a reporter makes a mistake, they/he/she owns up to it. By accepting those mistakes and apologizing publicly (as per our corrections box, printed daily), it's easier to stand firm when a error occures that we don't believe is our fault.

26Jul/120

Budget for July 27, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the July 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
25Jul/120

Newsrooms getting agile?

Journalism.co.uk has an interesting feature this week discussing the new(-ish) concept call "agile," used mostly in business and software development ("How to: bring agile into the newsroom").

But first: What is agile?

From Journalism.co.uk:

"Agile is a set of principles used to improve the way groups work together on projects," NPR's John Stefany told Journalism.co.uk. "It's most commonly used in software development but it has relevance to other fields, including newsgathering."

The piece goes in depth as to how the ideas are being used by news organizations around the world, especially in website development ("The Washington Post thinks of its website as 'always in beta'...."). I see this shift even at the Reformer, where over the past few years the website has continued to be a "work in progress." New features are constantly being added or removed from the site, and will continue to be rolled out .... Even as recent as five years ago, the thought process was much different -- people wanted to get the site "perfect" and leave it alone. Those days are long gone.

Or, consider the way we continue to use social media -- the choices on what updates are presented on Google+, Facebook or Twitter on a daily basis continue to shift as we learn more and listen to what readers want and what they are interested in. The same can be said for YouTube or Pinterest. Even know we're experimenting with Storify, but instead of doing that experimentation behind closed doors, we're doing it publicly and listening to feedback.

Or, consider the new-this-year Friday Reformer, a re-imagined attempt at a hyperlocal print product. We debuted the drastically altered product at the beginning of the year, complete with a new piece on the product, and then spent the next several weeks listening to reader feedback and making the needed changes (to what you see now).

When it comes to project development, agile makes a lot of sense. But consider these several points made in the Journalism.co.uk piece, adapting the agile mindset specifically in newsrooms:

"Journalists have been doing this for a long time," (NPR project manager John Stefany) said. "The assigning editor is the product owner, the voice of the customer, he/she prioritizes what gets worked on on a daily basis.

"Your team could be a reporter, photographer, graphic artist and videographer, and they are going to work best when they are all in constant communication with each other, ideally face-to-face, but at least checking-in regularly."

Newsrooms could apply agile to "longer, investigative projects that take months", Stefany believes. "Traditionally we've approached this by a long research phase, then photographers are brought in, then at the end graphic artists. But you really don't have anything concrete until the very end of that process. In the meantime the story could change or your competitor could scoop you on part of it, so if you were to apply agile principles to that, you would be constantly developing publishable content."

The larger the newsroom, the easier this process becomes. Ironically, even in a small newsroom, sometimes getting the different content managers to engage in this type of communication can be quite a battle.

Martin Belam, who was lead UX (user experience) at the Guardian and now runs digital consultancy Emblem, sees one of the parallels between software development and journalism as the cycle of improvement and refinement in the traditional print publication.

"The old model where you published a first edition and then you spotted some errors with it and you published a second edition and then a story develops slightly and you publish a third edition and by the fourth edition you've got the thing right. I think that very much mirrors the iterative approach to software development.

"I think the thing that is difficult for news organisations is the fact that things are never finished with agile and although you could say that news stories are never finished, there is a final layout and design of a page and you know that's the thing that you are sending off to print."

But that may have changed with the development of digital. Belam feels the "circular iteration process where you do something, you test it, you see what works, what didn't work and you improve the things that work" mirrors online reporting.

Again, I see that on a daily basis in the newsroom. Whereas, even a year ago we weren't too willing to "break" major news online, and if we did it was just a few graphs and then a tease to "tomorrow's paper," we now routinely break full-length stories online, and their appearance in the newspaper is almost an afterthought.

As lastly:

Boyer believes that although not agile, one thing that journalists can learn from developers is reserving time for self improvement.

"One of the things we had at the Tribune is that every person on the team in addition to being able to go to a conference was given five hack days, as we call them. They are sort of a paid vacation in which you are allowed to do whatever you want as long as it is cool. If you want to work on a project or attend a conference or you want to go and build a radio station in Africa, you are encouraged to.

"That something that seems really missing in newsrooms, when everyone is hustling for the deadline all day long and everyone is being encouraged to do more with less.

"I would love to see newsrooms give reporters a day a month or two days a month to learn a technology, to learn how to code, to learn how to use Twitter. It would benefit both the reporters and the organisation and the industry."