First DTH of the year

18 August 2008

The first DTH of the year is online and in stands now. It’s a good feeling, looking at the 26-page behemoth knowing how hard all the staff worked last week to put it out and knowing all the hard work they’re still putting in for Tuesday’s 34-pager.

Right now I’m most excited about our recruitment efforts. We manned a booth at Fall Fest, the annual start-of-year celebration where student groups court new members, and have a recruitment page on the Web site, complete with a video about the DTH from our multimedia desk. Editor Alli Nichols is at the journalism school’s convocation right now, making her pitch for the DTH, and I just sent an e-mail to the hundreds who signed up for our listserv. We’ll meet with the first group of interested students this Thursday.

I’m interested in what other student newspapers are doing to recruit this fall. It was a big topic of discussion at the MSCNE conference I went to this summer, and we all brain-stormed ideas for how to best recruit. We’ll be going to various classes to make pitches, we’re holding interest meetings, promoting it heavily on the Web site, using informational e-mails and have even got a few recruits from Twitter. What else can we do?

The Salisbury Post is all a-Twittered

10 August 2008

My internship at The Salisbury Post ended last Wednesday. I came courtesy of the Peggy Allen community journalism scholarship through the J-school at UNC, and I had a wonderful summer working at the Post. I couldn’t have hoped for more. My time there made me further appreciative of the type of journalism community papers provide.

The newsroom wanted to hear from me about the future of journalism and what I learned at the editors conference I went to at UGA in July, so we brown-bagged it and talked shop during lunch. 

I don’t think anything I talked about was particularly revolutionary. I talked about tools journalists are using to help them with their work – RSS readers, Twitter, social networking sites, SproutBuilder, Dipity and a few others. I talked about my goal for the DTH – buying multimedia kits with audio recorders, microphones and Flip video cameras for reporters to use. 

I couldn’t have been happier with how the conversation went. It was the perfect example of how newsrooms can utilize those with different skill-sets to teach others within the newsroom. As an intern, the reporting and writing skills I learned from watching and working with these journalists couldn’t have been beaten. And they can learn from the technological skills I have as a 20-year-old. 

All around the table were journalists who recognize the industry is changing and who want to learn the online skills now needed. There were no curmudgeons at this table. 

After lunch, the Post’s online coordinator, Brad Thomas, and I helped nearly everyone in the newsroom set up a Twitter account. I helped Managing Editor Frank DeLoache set up his Google Reader with RSS feeds. Sports editor Ronnie Gallagher set up a Facebook account.

The atmosphere in the newsroom was electric. Everyone (@frankdeloache, @kathychaffin, @RonnieGallagher, @gayparee and @DeirdreBPS) spent the rest of the afternoon updating Twitter and learning how to use it. I tried to answer questions best I could, and I promised I would type up a glossary of Internet terms and programs they can use. Brad even created a Twitter account for the paper itself. 

It’s only been a few days, but they’re still using their accounts. They’ve even gotten other Post staff to set up accounts. I’m really excited to see as they realize what I realized earlier – how helpful Twitter can be, and the sense of community it creates.

And it’ll help us keep in touch now that I’m back in Chapel Hill, where I’ll spend this year as managing editor for print at The Daily Tar Heel. I’m looking forward to the year and watching the paper grow under Editor Alli Nichols.

Breaking news online vs. in print

1 August 2008

If you followed me on Twitter yesterday, you saw fairly frequent updates via text from Great Hunt for Martha Stewart. There have been rumors that the media-mogul would be the secret guest to visit Kannapolis and the N.C. Research Campus for the last week, and Thursday morning, news leaked that she was in town.

Our campus reporter staked herself out there in the morning, and the Post sent me and a photographer to help in the afternoon. For the first two hours or so, this consisted of me driving up and down the two public roads on the campus. I was on foot when I finally saw the blue Range Rover Stewart was being toured around in by campus founder David H. Murdock. He stopped the car, and she graciously answered a few questions and let our photographer take a picture. I really appreciated the time they gave us.

The Post put its first story on the Web identifying Stewart as the mystery guest around 2 p.m. We posted photos and a short article around 4:30 p.m. A longer article appeared on A1 today.

Today, my editor asked me a philosophical question: By posting the news online saying “Martha’s in town,” did we tip off our competitors when they otherwise might not have gotten the story? The Post’s instinct has been to hold off with exclusives until the print edition. (This summer, after a prominent dentist in town was murdered, I overheard talk in the newsroom wanting to hold off publishing online certain details in the hopes that the TV stations wouldn’t be able to get the same information to break the news on their 6 p.m. newscasts.)

What I told my editor: The printed paper isn’t the Web site‘s competition. And it the two products aren’t distinct from one another. It’s the same name! When posts that Martha Stewart is in town, readers still associate that with the Post.

And as has been said:

If you’re not breaking stories throughout the day on a competitive beat, then even if you have a better story in the next day’s paper, you still got beat. (Media Shift, Dec. 2006)

In the case of the dentist’s murder, the TV and other print competitors got the information we saved through their own reporting. We ended up posting in online before the print edition came out anyways, only this time we followed the other outlets when we could have been first.

The Post, even in the time I’ve been here, is breaking more and more online before it goes to print. Readership on the Web site is making gains, from what I’ve heard, and there’s effort in the newsroom to be “Web centric,” as the buzz-word around here is. But the Post, like other papers, is still trying to adapt. As my editor said, “This is a completely different way of looking at things than we’re used to.”