Archive for December, 2011

My move to Journal Register Co. and Digital First Media and my work for my new companies dominated my writing this year on this blog. I’ve reviewed my blogging each of the past two years, so I’ll do it again in a post that clearly is self-indulgent. Still, I think it’s good to look back on a year’s work, and as long as I’m doing that, I might as well blog it.

The most notable posts of the year were a series I wrote the week before Christmas, explaining aspects of Digital First journalism. The piece on the workflow of a Digital First journalist became my second most-read blog post ever in just a week. While it’s more than 3,000 views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, I’m sure it will eventually become my most-read blog post. It took the C3 blueprint nine months to reach 5,000 views. The Digital First workflow topped that in just over a week. Three other posts in the series topped 1,000 views quickly.

My work for JRC and DFM contributed to the blog in lots of other ways. I explained what community engagement means. More than a dozen blog posts offer tips, links and slides for workshops I did in visits to Digital First newsrooms. I also blogged frequently about how Digital First Media colleagues are using social media and engaging the community: (more…)


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I have compiled all of my recent series on Digital First journalism as a pdf.

Yeah, it’s a little odd to present Digital First content in a format so people can print it. But I already acknowledged that the purpose of the series was to help people through a transition from print to digital. If you prefer print, here it is. I did this for my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection and Mobile-First Strategy blog posts, and was surprised at how many people read the pdfs.

If you prefer to read them online, and missed any of them because of the holidays:

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

Digital First journalists: What we value

10 ways to think like a Digital First journalist

Leading a Digital First newsroom

How Digital First succeeds at making money

Here’s the pdf. I only include the comments where people used a full name. I edited them slightly, adding links to some comments and cutting out my responses that merely thanked someone for their comments. I also edited the blog posts slightly, cutting out references to upcoming posts and other small tweaks like that. I did not include the tweets that I added to a couple of the posts.

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I got a lot of high-powered help in calling George Bush The Elder the winner of the 1980 Republican caucuses. Seated next to me is Jim Flansburg. Standing from left are Dan Pedersen, Paul Leavitt, Merrill Perlman, Michael Gartner, Jim Gannon and Arnie Garson. That’s an astounding amount of journalistic talent and experience surrounding me. And I had more hair then, but not on my face.

Let’s bid farewell to the Iowa caucuses. They’ve had a long run, but it’s time for someone else to launch the presidential campaign process.

This state with far more hogs than people has hogged its place at the front of the political line far too long. It is past time for the Hawkeye State to practice the manners that Iowa parents and teachers have been teaching Iowa children for generations: Take turns.

Someone will need to wrench the spotlight away from Iowa, but I hope someone does. Iowans will not relinquish without a fight what they unreasonably regard as an entitlement. (I use that word because the Iowa Republicans who would never give up their spot at the front of the line hate entitlements, except the ones they receive.)

I voiced this view privately during the 2008 caucus season, though I never wrote it. I wasn’t using Twitter regularly yet. My only communication outlet at the time was a blog about journalism training, and the caucuses didn’t fit my niche, so I didn’t express my views publicly. (It’s not a perfect fit now, but I blog more broadly about media, and let’s face it, the Iowa caucuses are a creation of media hype.)

When I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette later in 2008, I wondered whether I would have the courage to voice this heresy from such a prominent Iowa forum during the 2012 caucus season. Other opportunities drew me away from Iowa, so I offer my opinion now, one week before the 2012 caucuses, from the safety of Virginia.

While I am no longer living in the state, I offer this view with a lot of love for Iowa and a ton of caucus experience. (more…)

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I have blogged this week about various aspects of digital-first journalism. For any of that to succeed, digital-first must succeed as a business approach.

It will. It is. I’m not going to explain that in detail in this post, though. I’m going to shift to curation (an important process and skill in digital-first journalism), because lots of people have already explained the business aspects of the digital-first approach well.

John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media (and Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group) explained the company’s business approach better than I would (which is good, since he’s the CEO) in his June address to the International Newsroom Summit in Zurich: How the Crowd Saved Our Company. His recent post on news media as medium and messenger elaborates, including the slide below. His September post announcing the formation of Digital First discussed some of the results of the approach so far (and we’re just getting started).

Digital First revenue: stacking dimes


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Digital-first editors are caught in transition.

Many are longtime print editors. However much they have been embracing and resisting the digital transformation the past couple decades (and most of us have been doing some of both), they understand now that the future is digital and they want to help lead that newsroom of the future. Even the editors who are digital natives who’ve worked more online than in print are caught in this transition because they are leading staffs through the transition.

Don’t look at the suggestions here as an exact checklist for the digital-first editor. We want editors who don’t need checklists, who find creative solutions for their newsrooms. The staff dynamic, size and abilities, the community’s needs and the editor’s own strengths, weaknesses and creativity will determine the right leadership approach for each newsroom. And the challenges and opportunities for each newsroom are unique, at least in their details, and leadership must respond to them with solutions that are unique, at least in their details.

Don’t look at this checklist as a yardstick by which to measure the success or failings of a particular editor. Perhaps some editor excels in all of these areas (I wouldn’t, if I were still leading a newsroom), but that would be a rare editor.

View these as my suggestions for digital-first editors trying to meet the challenges and opportunities this transition: (more…)

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Digital-first journalists think creatively and individually, so this is a post that can’t be completely true.

To whatever extent my observations here are true, digital-first journalists will reflect wide variety in the degree and application of the ideas and views I describe here. But I think these are ways many digital-first journalists think that differ from traditional journalism thinking.

  1. A digital-first journalist views a story as a process, not a product.
  2. A digital-first journalist likes to be first with the story or the idea, but likes to link when she’s not (as I linked above to a blog post where Jeff Jarvis discusses the view of the story as a process). (more…)

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Journalism values are not timeless and etched in stone. Values have changed through the years and the digital-first journalist recognizes that they are changing today.

In some ways, a digital-first journalist shares the values of traditional journalism but may pursue them in different ways. In other ways, we pursue values that we think are more appropriate for the networked world we work in today.

We won’t entirely agree on values. Where we share values, we may vary in priority and practice. Digital-first leaders trust our journalists and the editors leading our newsrooms to make smart, ethical decisions. So don’t view this as a narrow template into which we must squeeze our journalism or as unanimously held views. These are some thoughts on values that guide journalists — how they are changing and how they endure. I share these views to stimulate discussion about digital-first values because I believe we value candid and vigorous discussion about journalism and journalism values.

I am examining and explaining digital-first journalism in a series of blog posts this week. I started yesterday with a discussion of how digital-first journalists work. Today I address the values that guide digital-first journalists: (more…)

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“Digital-first” means different priorities and processes for journalists.

As I’ve visited newsrooms discussing digital-first journalism, I’ve heard again and again from editors that they are “all in” for the digital emphasis. But in the next breath, some editors ask questions about what “digital-first” means for them and their newsrooms. They believe but they don’t fully understand.

Digital-first is way more than just publishing breaking news online and shooting video (though it involves both). Steve Yelvington explained:

Digital-first is about making the future your first priority, with everything that implies.

It requires restructuring all your priorities. Not just when you do it, but what you do and how you do it.

In a series of blog posts starting today, I will attempt to explain what those priorities mean.  (more…)

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  1. Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., told me in an email how he worked a recent breaking story. It’s a great example of live-tweeting the unfolding story, with some good crowdsourcing and a correction supplied by the community. And it all starts with some excellent fundamental reporting.

    “I received a tip from a parent that Bishop Montgomery
    High School, a top area private school, was shut down for the day
    because of a threat posted on YouTube. I called police who confirmed it,
    but provided few details. Reporting began with a couple tweets.”

  2. Officials at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance cancelled classes today because of a threat that appeared on YouTube, police said.
  3. Altman continues his narrative: “I then filed a three-paragragh item to the web editor
    to post on the website and waited for more info. and kept tweeting and
    calling police, Archdiocese, and court because of another story I
    originally had been scheduled to cover.”
  4. If anyone has the link to the YouTube video please email it to me @ larry.altman@dailybreeze.com. And the original 1, you know what I mean.
  5. Closure at Bishop Montgomery was not scheduled. Looks like rest of the week has shortened days. Is it midterms week?
  6. Threatening video for Bishop Montgomery reportedly removed from YouTube. I know I can’t find it.
  7. Waiting on calls from archdiocese and police to explain BMHS threat. I have unconfirmed info, but won’t report yet. I’m old school.
  8. Altman again: “Police then call me and provide more info. Tweeting begins while still online with officer.”
  9. 16-year-old arrested in Bishop Montgomery High threat.
  10. 16-year-old boy allegedly made video threatening BMHS. No specific threats, but used a disguised voice on video, police said.
  11. Boy arrested Sunday on suspicion of making criminal threats. Felony.
  12. Cops: “It wasn’t a specific (threat) that it was going to be a bomb or something, but something very bad was going to happen.” #BMHS
  13. Again from Altman’s email: “Begin writing new story. Archdiocese spokesman calls. More tweeting.”
  14. Church spokesman on Bishop closure: “They erred on the side of having an abundance of caution.”
  15. Bishop student was taken to juvenile hall. Not sure if he’s still there. Name obviously not released.
  16. Altman: “Reader tweets question asking if I know kid’s name.”
  17. @LarryAltman. Who was it?? I go to bishop and I’m super curious
  18. @glitttterr Don’t know. Need you to tell me!
  19. @LarryAltman I’ll try to find out!
  20. More from Altman: “Finish writing story and send to online editor for posting. He also posts my Twitter feed on website. Cops agree to let me see threatening video. I drive to police station to view it.”
  21. Any students with insight on the Bishop threat or student, please contact me at 310-543-6655. Leave a message as I’m in the field.
  22. Altman: “After copying video, head back to office. Tweeting starts up again.”
  23. I have heard the recorded threat against Bishop that led to student’s arrest. Here it is in several parts:
  24. Here it goes: “Dear brothers and sisters of Bishop Montgomery. Recently our beloved friend (inaudible) was expelled….
  25. (contd) and so we are taking action. We are the resistance. It will be in three days of time. Bishop Montgomery shall fall….
  26. (cont’d) It shall decline. It shall never be the same. It will bounce, bounce, bounce to motherf—— hell and beyond, and so on and so on.
  27. (cont’d) Witchcraft and wizardry, our wands cut deep. We are your (inaudible). Catholics are our sheep and so on….
  28. (cont’d) We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. Expect us.”
  29. I suspect a bad auto-correct here. I’m thinking the writer meant “updates,” not “opiates”:
  30. @LarryAltman great job and thx for the opiates Larry.

    You rock, so does Ashley Curtin – My two favorites!

  31. @devonsodc thanks. Update up soon.
  32. UPDATED: 16-year-old allegedly threatened to send Bishop Montgomery campus ‘to hell’ – The Daily Breeze: bit.ly/tOQSF0
  33. @LarryAltman ironically, the character is based on Guy Fawkes, a 17th century English Catholic that plotted to blow up parliament.
  34. Readers have let me know the face in the threatening Bishop video was the character in “V for Vendetta,” not an evil wizard. I’ll rent it.
  35. Altman: “I keep reporting and tweeting. Cops send me the actual video. We post it.
  36. Here’s the video that caused Bishop Montgomery officials to close the campus today The Daily Breeze: bit.ly/vNkemu
  37. Parents say Bishop Montgomery threat followed expulsion of three students last week for making rap video including marijuana use, profanity
  38. @LarryAltman any more information regarding the closure?
  39. Altman: “Finished final version for web and print.”
  40. Updated updated update: Teen wanted to send Bishop Montogomery to hell — bit.ly/rPnBvh
  41. @LarryAltman the likeness of Guy Fawkes was a common sight at the occupy WS/ LA/DC protests. Good job on the coverage today. Scary stuff.
  42. @rpmcardle Yes, I have read up on this today. I plan to rent V for Vendetta soon….Used to always see it in the video store and passed.
  43. Hey, what do you know? V for Vendetta is on Thursday night at 9 on BBCHD. I’ll record it. #obsessedwithscrewingthatuptoday
  44. Thanks to help from community yesterday on Bishop story. Picked up 38 Twitter followers for 790. Hit 481 on facebook.com/southbaycrime.
  45. Readers supplied me with background on teens involved, videos, Facebook, etc. That’s how story got told.
  46. Prosecutors to file one felony count of making a criminal threat against teen in Bishop Montgomery case. Arraignment Wed in Ing Juvie Court.
  47. 16-year-old suspected of posting Bishop Montgomery threat charged – The Daily Breeze bit.ly/ucPArk

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  1. Continuing my discussion of live-tweeting as a reporting tool:
  2. @stevebuttry I saw your post the other day about court reporting using twitter. Do you have good examples of gvmnt/board meeting reporting?
  3. Here’s the blog post I wrote last week that prompted the question:
  4. My tweeps responded quickly to David’s question, even late at night, first with some live-tweeting by Patricia Doxsey, who also has done a great job of Twitter trial coverage:
  5. I knew you’d deliver! @OAinteractive RT @ivanlajara: @stevebuttry But of course! bit.ly/vLpnTC
  6. Thanks! I’ve seen this tool for sports scores, but never thought you could use it for gov. @stevebuttry @ivanlajara bit.ly/vLpnTC
  7. @stevebuttry @OAinteractive Pick the right ones. We livestream & add context with tweets for controversial or well attended meetings
  8. @OAinteractive @stevebuttry Even better when there’s a ‘blatant violation of the Open Meetings Law’ live
  9. Hope there are examples everywhere? MT @stevebuttry: @OAinteractive seeking examples of live-tweeting govt/board meetings (not courts).
  10. @ChrisLKeller Well, *good* examples. Mr. Buttry had some for court tweeting, & I was asking him about the gvmnt equivalent. @stevebuttry
  11. @stevebuttry @OAinteractive Here’s one by @scott_lilwall on @thecharrette: thecharrette.ca/2011/11/23…
  12. @stevebuttry @OAinteractive And here’s one from @Paulatics and others @edmontonjournal : coveritlive.com/index2.php…
  13. Thanks to my tweeps for these examples. I posed the question in the evening, and I expect to get more answers during the day, especially after I tweet this link. Please add your examples with tweets to me or in comments on my blog. Here are my suggestions for live-tweeting.

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  1. In a webinar this week, I covered some basic Twitter techniques for journalists and mentioned live-tweeting trials and meetings as an example. Thursday, Lisa Fernandez of the San
    Jose Mercury News live-tweeted a sentencing for the first time:
  2. Omar Siddiqui just arrived at federal courthouse in San Jose for sentencing.
    December 8, 2011 11:18:33 AM EST
  3. Fry’s exec cries twice when describing how Omar Siddiqui stole “$87 MILLION” from company during sentencing.
    December 8, 2011 12:24:23 PM EST
  4. Omar Siddiqui is very sick man, has no friends, has alienated himself from family, and will go to prison a broken man, attorney says.
    December 8, 2011 12:27:05 PM EST
  5. Omar Siddiqui declines chance to speak at his own sentencing hearing.
    December 8, 2011 12:34:27 PM EST
  6. Judge sentences Omar Siddiqui to six years in prison for kickback scheme at Fry’s.
    December 8, 2011 12:47:28 PM EST
  7. Omar Siddiqui takes off tie led to custody. Six years in prison for kickback scheme at Fry’s.
    December 8, 2011 12:59:09 PM EST
  8. Lisa had written some A-matter before heading to the courtroom, and editor Patty Hannon updated with Lisa’s tweets. Later in the office, Lisa polished the story into a more “writerly” version. (more…)

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I didn’t have time during yesterday’s Twitter webinar to answer all the questions. I will provide quick answers here (so I can get to them all today), no more than one paragraph each. If you’d like me to elaborate on a topic, tell me in the comments and I may make it a future blog post, though often I will be linking to previous posts. I have edited some of the questions for brevity and to make them general, rather than applying to a specific newsroom. Participants in the webinar were Digital First Media (Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group) journalists.

Q: Can you offer some quick tips for our really new Twitter users about how to get started on tweeting when you’re still rather unfamiliar and unsure about Twitter?

My updated and expanded Twitter tips have a section on getting started. (more…)

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