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Archive for March 20th, 2009

Updated to add @carolynwashburn to list of Twittering editors.

I’m pleased that the American Society of Newspaper Editors is proceeding with a virtual convention.

I suggested such an alternative in a post I wrote Feb. 27, the day ASNE canceled its Chicago convention scheduled for late April. I can’t take credit for the ASNE decision because President Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel, told me in an email right after I sent her a link to the post that plans were already under way. But I applaud the decision. Tough times are exactly when leaders of news organizations should be sharing ideas and helping each other meet difficult challenges.

ASNE took me up on two offers I made in that Feb. 27 post. I will be leading webinars to teach my fellow editors how to lead their staffs into the Twitterverse (April 7) and how to use liveblogging to cover events as they unfold (April 21). 

 (A couple recent comments on this blog asked who I write for — my peers or the community. The truth is that I write about community issues as well as journalism issues. This particular post is focused on journalism issues. Community members are welcome to read it, but if my focus on journalism issues and my frequent discussions of Twitter annoy you, this would be a good time to click over to some more community-focused content at GazetteOnline.)

I’ll blog soon about liveblogging and seek some advice from editors and from the community on how to use that tool effectively. But right now I want to explain how urgently my colleagues need to learn about Twitter.

I’ve never known a top newspaper editor who didn’t work too hard and love his or her job.

Editors work long hours and then take work home, worrying about matters as diverse as ethics, grammar, revenue and investigative reporting. They believe to their core that they are performing public service and upholding a right so precious that our nation’s founders protected it in the First Amendment. They are working hard at innovating, but they and their staffs are so rooted in what they know that change is slow and difficult.

Only time will tell whether Twitter is a fad or a revolutionary information source whose importance will grow. But for right now, its value for journalism is clear, growing and easily demonstrated. And most top editors don’t use it at all. And most who have Twitter accounts rarely use them.

This is the truth about being a newspaper editor today: The things you learned over decades on your path to the top are not the things that will help you innovate and thrive in the future. Twitter is only an illustration that editors are moving too slowly on the path to innovation.

As promised in a recent post, I searched for leaders of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press Managing Editors who use Twitter. My search might have omitted some who don’t use their actual names or locations in their profiles or some with common names who created a profile but didn’t update more than a few times. I’m confident I found every leader of ASNE or APME who uses Twitter in any significant way under his or her real name. Also, the numbers of followers and updates listed below might be a few days out of date, because I checked a few editors here and there over the last several days.

Of 20 officers and directors of ASNE, only three even had a Twitter presence:

  • Ellen Foley has 33 followers. But I should note that all 21 of her updates came after she resigned in October as editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.
  • ASNE President Charlotte Hall wrote her first Twitter post Monday. She has 52 followers. When I started writing this, she had 29 followers but had not yet given them a single tweet to follow. She’s moving in the right direction. I hope she’ll be in my April 7 audience.
  • John Temple, who was editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News when it folded Feb. 27, has 55 followers and one update: one word, “test,” tweeted last July 23. I have not seen a news report that he has a new job yet.

In other words, of 20 ASNE board members, not a single active editor had posted a single tweet at the time they canceled their convention.

Of 16 ASNE committee chairs (including some board members), George Stanley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Jennifer Carroll of Gannett (a corporate executive with a digital emphasis who doesn’t lead a newsroom) were the only ASNE committee chairs who were active on Twitter. (I will be collaborating with Stanley in a regional American Press Institute New Newsroom workshop in Eau Claire, Wis., next Friday, March 27.)

Of ASNE board candidates, only Anthony Moor, an online editor for the Dallas Morning News, is active on Twitter. Carlos Sanchez of the Waco Tribune-Herald has 24 followers and no updates. But if he ever does update, you can’t read it unless he lets you follow him because he has protected his updates.

APME’s board is more active on Twitter, but its only members with more than 100 followers or tweets are an editor and a former editor with primary focus on the digital platform. Of 31 APME board members:

  • Jack Lail, news director of innovation at the Knoxville News Sentinel, has 1,066 followers and 2,527 updates (I follow him and recommend following him).
  • Jim Brady, former executive editor of washingtonpost.com, has 550 followers and 107 updates.
  • Randy Lovely of the Arizona Republic has 35 followers and 22 updates.
  • Kathy Best of the Seattle Times has 18 followers, five updates and protects her updates.
  • Bob Heisse of the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., has 18 followers and 53 updates.
  • Carole Tarrant of the Roanoke Times has 87 followers and 21 updates.
  • APME Secretary Hollis Towns of the Asbury Park Press has 34 followers and five updates.
  • Andrew Oppmann of the Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal, an executive committee member, has 45 followers and 56 updates.

These aren’t the only top newsroom leaders using Twitter. I will repeat the list from last week’s post at the end of this post.

I should add here that Twitter is far from the only way that an editor can learn about innovation. An editor focused on mastering video or link journalism or user-generated content might feel too swamped to take on Twitter (though it would be helpful in those pursuits). And the leaders of ASNE and APME have taken on national leadership responsibilities in addition to their responsibilities in their newsrooms. They may be the busiest of the busy.

But on some level, Twitter has value as a barometer of how editors are embracing innovation and learning valuable but uncomfortable new tools and techniques. And the simple, undeniable fact is that the leading newsroom leaders are barely using it, let alone learning its value and leading the way in this change.

If you’re an editor who knows you need to catch up in the social media world, please join me for the April 7 webiner “Leading your staff into the Twitterverse.” It’s free for ASNE members. I will try to give you simple and helpful advice. If you’re an editor (or any journalist, but I especially want to hear from top newsroom leaders) who’s already Twittering, please read last week’s post and answer some of the questions I posed there. (Thanks to Andria Krewson of the Charlotte Observer for a detailed, thoughtful response that I will quote in the webinar and in a later blog post.)

ASNE likes panel discussions at its conventions and I am going to try to convene a panel discussion by Twitter. I will recruit some active Twittering editors to tweet some advice to their peers during my webinar, using hashtags. Your advice will show up in my Twitter stream and I will show the participants how to use Twitter search and we will find your advice there, too. I’ll also feed your streams into a CoverItLive liveblog. I will be contacting some editors directly, but if you would like to help, direct-message me on Twitter or email me. 

Here’s that list of top newsroom leaders I know of who are using Twitter (additions welcome; I don’t pretend to know them all). I took out the numbers of followers and updates because the figures I used last week are a week old. The top three are the most active. After that, they are in no particular order. 

  • John Robinson of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C.
  • Chris Cobler of the Victoria Advocate in Texas.
  • Kirk LaPointe  of the Vancouver Sun.
  • Valerie Casselton of the Vancouver Sun.
  • Gerry Kern of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Melanie Sill of the Sacramento Bee. 
  • Monty Cook of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Rick Thames of the Charlotte Observer.
  • Jeff Thomas of The Gazette in Colorado Springs.
  • Steve Fagan of The Monitor in McAllen, Texas.
  • Marci Caltabiano of the Brownsville Herald.
  • Cyndi Brown of the Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C.
  • Glen Faison of the Porterville Recorder in California.
  • Lyle Muller, my Gazette colleague and successor as editor.
  • Robyn Tomlin of the Wilmington Star News in North Carolina.
  • Alexandra Hayne of the Daily Tribune in Ames, Iowa.
  • Mitch Pugh of the Sioux City Journal in Iowa.
  • Steve Thomas of the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa.
  • John A. Nelson of the Danville Advocate in Kentucky.
  • Bill Watson of the Pocono Record in Pennsylvania.
  • Steve Mullen of the Bakersfield Californian.
  • Bob Davis of the Anniston Star in Alabama.
  • Carolyn Washburn of the Des Moines Register, who started March 25.
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