Covering Al Roker’s visit to Little Rock

25 June 2009

I got to cover when Al Roker stopped in Little Rock today as part of his five-city, five-charity “Lend a Hand” tour. He presented $600,000 worth of donations to the Arkansas Rice Depot, a statewide charity that helps feed children, adults and the elderly. They serve 300,000 people annually.

More photos on Flickr.

After getting there at 5:30 a.m. in anticipation of their 6 a.m. airtime and waiting in between live shots in the steamy Arkansas weather, I can’t say I’m jumping to get into the TV industry.

But Roker talked with me for awhile for my story, and we talked about Twitter – I heard the staff travelling with him talk about how he is constantly tweeting and posting photos. He talked about the video chats he does with his kids when he’s out of town and how they keep in touch.

We also talked about Charlotte, where he’s headed next on the tour. Andrew Dunn’s covering him there for The Charlotte Observer.

Tools I use for mobile reporting

23 June 2009

Patrick Thornton asked on Twitter yesterday “what’s in your mobile kit?

Here’s what I carry with me:

  • Several pens.
  • A reporter’s notebook.
  • My Blackberry.
  • My Olympus voice recorder and a pair of headphones.
  • A Casio Exilim that shoots video, records audio and takes photos.

I wish I would get into the practice of keeping my Nikon D-40 with me more often so I could get better using it, but it’s so bulky for most of my everyday use. Eventually, I’d love to have a MacBook to take on the road with me, but I can send short breaking news text to Twitter or e-mail from my Blackberry until then.

For the breaking news kits I hope to build at the DTH, I think some version of the above is a good start. We use Flip video cameras, and there’s no debating their ease. A microphone for the audio recorders would be useful to gather audio for publication and not just internal note-taking.

Defining my role as online managing editor

21 June 2009

One of the things I learned while managing editor for print last year was the importance of knowing what you want to accomplish. I took time today to jot down my goals and iron out with my awesome boss what my job will detail next year as online managing editor.

I realized I can be most effective if I focus on small-group training, giving intensive feedback and delegating the execution of projects to others.  I also realized while making this list that I can’t do it all, and that I can do much more if I help others do it well.

I think this list is pretty thorough, but I learned last year that the never-ending role of management is to deal with whatever is thrown at you. I’m sure my job will end up encompassing much more than this, but I think this is a good start. Thoughts?


  • Ensure Web site, blogs, social network accounts are all working properly; get problems fixed.
  • Oversee the homepage and posting of Web updates throughout the day with online editor.
  • Oversee interactions with readers via social media throughout the day with the community manager.
  • Send staff e-mail of readership statistics.
  • Critique blogs, videos, podcasts, slideshows and other online-only content when the lesson is applicable to all staff. Send links of interesting things to read.
  • Send individuals feedback on blogs and other online-only content when critique is too detailed for staff listserv.
  • Work with reporters while they edit and upload videos, podcasts, slideshows and other online-only content. Approve before publishing.
  • Work with copy editors on hyperlinking and headline writing for the Web.
  • Be a third-read on online-only stories. Work with reporters to format print stories for the Web.
  • Answer questions from readers and help troubleshoot problems, or refer to someone else to answer.


  • Send out an e-mail of weekly highs/lows of online content.
  • Set goals for the content for the week ahead.
  • Weekly management meeting.
  • Coordinate plans for multimedia, photo coverage for the week ahead after enterprise.


  • Meet twice-monthly with online representatives from all desks.
  • Meet with Innovation team.
  • Solicit professional critiques of our work.
  • Work with news adviser to schedule enrichments.

Sightseeing in Little Rock

20 June 2009

I’m five weeks into my internship, and I haven’t toured hardly any of the Little Rock spots I hoped to visit during my summer here. Today I did the most sightseeing yet, stopping by Little Rock Central High School and the Governor’s Mansion.

For the last half of my internship, here’s where else I want to go:

The Daily Tar Heel’s new social media policy

4 June 2009

Because The Daily Tar Heel’s strategy next year involves social media more than ever, we felt it would be helpful to establish a policy to guide reporters on how to use it. My goal was to create a policy that emphasizes the value of social media while sets some standards so as not to embarass the paper.

In general, we plan to trust our reporters to know what is acceptable and what is not. We’re going to accompany this policy with training at the beginning of the year on how to use social media.

10 rules for using social media:

  1. Use your own name and photo. If you’re using your account for DTH reporting, identify yourself as a DTH reporter in your profile.
  2. Tell your editor if you plan to tweet as a DTH reporter. Likewise, let your editor know if you plan to livetweet something.
  3. Do not post something online that would not be appropriate to run in the paper or on*
  4. You must disclose yourself as a DTH reporter to potential sources the same way you would if you were meeting face-to-face.
  5. Do not disclose political affiliation on profiles and do not write about your political preferences in updates.
  6. Do not criticize a colleague’s work.
  7. Promoting your work via social media is encouraged.
  8. In the interest of transparency, staff meetings are considered open unless otherwise stated.
  9. It is acceptable to “friend” sources, but do it evenly. For instance, if you cover the Chapel Hill Town Council, if you wish to follow one member on Twitter, you should follow all of them.
  10. Respond to people who contact you via social media. If you aren’t the appropriate person to answer their questions, refer them to whoever is.

In making this list I looked at several professional papers’ guidelines on social media. Most missed the mark with the limits that they placed. I want to make it as easy as possible for readers and sources to contact DTH reporters and place a high premium on transparency. My experience with social media is that it’s expanded my reporting capabilities and made me more responsive to our readership, and I wouldn’t want to limit other reporters.

Feel free to comment with suggestions/improvements. I’m also interested to hear if other college papers have social media policies or are looking to create them.

*Added after a suggestion from Jason Spencer.

Classified ads that made me laugh

1 June 2009

Apparently no one has told people in Arkansas that they can advertise online. Waiting for my story to be edited tonight I looked through Sunday’s Democrat-Gazette classifieds. It’s a full two sections, 14 pages in all, of everything ranging from personals to government meeting announcements.

The best of the three-liners:

  • In the personals – “Rachel, I would like that. Call me or write. Please be sincere.”
  • Under special announcements – “I, Jimmy J. Wheeler, am not responsible for any debts/actions of Shona D. Golen Wheeler, this day forward.”
  • Cats for sale – “Tom cat, 21-years-old, very skinny, … needs medical attention. Please call…”
  • For sale – “French antiques, 1980s original: Inlaid burlwood French Bedroom suite…”
  • For sale – “Playboy magazines, 1955 to present. All complete. $5,000. ..”
  • Sad – “Engagement ring, white gold, 0.25ct princess cut, worn 3 mos. …” and “Wedding dress with veil, size 8, never worn. Call…”

Who says reading the paper’s no fun?