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Archive for July, 2012

I loved my job as editor of the Minot Daily News. I reported to work 20 years ago today thinking I was at the pinnacle of my career and would stay there for many years to come.

North Dakota seemed like the right place for me, even with sub-zero wind chills much of the winter and huge mosquitoes through the summer.

Mimi was a popular columnist and had a thriving freelance writing business. Our sons were doing well in school. We had a nice home on a hill with a lovely view of the city in the valley below. We had fallen in love with Teddy Roosevelt National Park, just a couple hours’ drive away.

My staff was performing good journalism. We were doing watchdog reporting for our community. We were providing a strong editorial voice. We were learning and improving together as journalists.

Other newspapers in North Dakota were noticing the rise of the smallest of the state’s “big four” newspapers (yes, “big” is relative; in most states all of those papers would be mid-sized or small). I had been elected president of the North Dakota Associated Press Managing Editors my first year in the state. My staff won more awards at the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s summer conference than anyone could remember us winning.

After tumultuous experiences when afternoon newspapers had died in Des Moines and Kansas City and I questioned decisions by top leaders, I wanted to run a newsroom myself. I had ideas about executive leadership that I wanted to try and they seemed to be working. We had smoothly managed a change earlier in the year from afternoon to morning production. I was enjoying the momentum I felt my career had.

Then I got fired. Twenty years ago today.

I never got a good explanation for the firing, and probably wouldn’t have believed it if I did. In retrospect, I can see clearly that the owners were planning to sell the paper. It was jointly owned by the Buckner News Alliance and Donrey Media, and that partnership was probably never a good idea. Unloading big salaries was part of a plan to make the newspaper more attractive financially to a buyer. In less than a year, the publisher fired the editor, advertising manager, business manager and production manager, replacing us, if at all, with people who clearly made less money. Then the owners sold the paper to Ogden Newspapers, which still owns it.
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Journalists at the Denver Post demonstrated some excellent uses of Twitter in their coverage of the massacre at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colo., Friday.

I was planning to write about hashtags today in my #twutorial series on how journalists should use Twitter, but I’ve pushed that one back to next week. Breaking news is one of the most important ways journalists can use Twitter, and the coverage of the shooting illustrated several things individual journalists and news organizations should do in covering a breaking story.

Tweet the unfolding story

This was perhaps the strongest aspect of the Post’s Twitter use during the shooting coverage. Several Post journalists tweeted from the scene of the theater, from where families waited for news about victims and from outside the suspect’s apartment. Reporter Jordan Steffen explained in an email: (more…)

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I am excited to see Project Thunderdome starting to take place.

We announced our curation team Thursday. Though we had a July 30 launch date, curators Angi Carter and Karen Workman pitched in Friday, helping with our coverage of the horrific theater shootings in Colorado.

Now Thunderdome Editor Robyn Tomlin has posted 11 new jobs. We will have channel managers in seven topical content areas: national, world, politics, sports, entertainment, business/finance and technology.

In addition, we will be hiring a mobile content producer, SWAT team leader, data team leader and editorial assistant.

I think we are assembling a truly remarkable journalism operation, both in concept and in the people we will be hiring. If you see an opportunity in these listings (or more to come), I hope you will apply to join us.

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Visitors use computers available for public use at the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab.

I was a guest speaker today at a ceremony in Pottstown, Pa., to celebrate the opening of the Community Media Lab of the Mercury, a Digital First news operation.

The celebration was a joint opening with the new Pottstown Visitors Center across the street in the Merc’s original building.

I have published a couple photos here, but others are in my DFM Engagement Tumblr started today. I also Storified tweets and photos about the opening celebration.

Here are my prepared remarks:

Perhaps you’ve heard that newspapers are in trouble, or even that they are dying.

I’m here to tell you today that the Mercury and Digital First Media have a bright future. The changes reflected in the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab are part of a transformation of our business that is delivering results and that will ensure a continuing role in Pottstown and the surrounding communities for the Merc and our journalists.

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News curators must collect, summarize, make sense, add value, attribute, link, intrigue and entice.

Digital First Media announced today that Julie Westfall will lead our curation team, joined by Angi Carter and Karen Workman.

I am delighted with our selections for this team and look forward to working with them as they explore and demonstrate what a news curation team should be.

Mandy Jenkins introduces the candidates in her blog. Here I will discuss our expectations for those team members as well as for other Digital First journalists who will curate local content.

Successful curation will make sense on its own if you don’t click through to any of the content you are curating, but will entice many people to click through and read or watch more. Finding and presenting the collected content is important, but effective curation boosts the experience of each of the pieces by presenting multiple pieces in a context that enhances your understanding of each piece. (more…)

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I love the variety and serendipity of Twitter’s timeline. Whenever I check my timeline, I see the news, commentary, humor and complaints of the moment from the nearly 2,500 people that I follow.

But the variety and serendipity that I love can quickly become the chaos that makes Twitter confusing and time-consuming — and thus useless — to a busy beat reporter.

Reporters, even if they enjoy the free flow of the timeline, should use Twitter lists, saved searches, alerts and/or columns in a service such as TweetDeck or HootSuite so they can more efficiently and more reliably find the tweets that are most useful to them.

One more important way to organize Twitter is to check your “mentions” regularly. On Twitter.com, click “connect” at the top of the page, and it will let you see only tweets that mention you (or you can click the tab to see all your interactions – retweets, new followers and people who have favorited your tweets, in addition to mentions). This helps you see quickly when people are replying to your tweets or otherwise mentioning you. (more…)

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Jeff Edelstein

I have long thought that journalists are too timid about telling stories in the first person. I noted a year ago that one of the best stories of my career was not published because it was a first-person account.

Columnists get away with writing in the first person, and I’m glad my colleague Jeff Edelstein of the Trentonian had the courage and honesty to tell the story of falling asleep at the wheel with his son in the car.

I hope other journalists with powerful personal stories to tell don’t let our reticence about first-person journalism keep them from telling the stories. And when they tell them, I hope our editors have the good sense to publish them. What are some other outstanding examples of first-person journalism? I’d be happy to share some links here.

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