British journalist Richard Kendall asked my advice on making daily newsroom budgets (called “news lists” over there) “more multi-platform neutral/friendly.”
I’ll offer my suggestions, but first will ask my Digital First Media colleagues (and other journalists) to share your own advice, including examples. Either provide a link if your budget is online or upload to Document Cloud, Scribd or SlideShare and add a link in the comments or email to me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.
My suggestions for a Digital First news budget are below. How you would carry it out might vary depending on your newsroom’s communication system and content management system(s). It also might vary depending on whether your budgets include content from wire services and other external providers (such as the Thunderdome national newsroom for DFM newsrooms). But I suggest a shared Google spreadsheet (or a Google Form feeding a spreadsheet) with some or all of the following columns (order may vary, but I am listing them in the order I think a Digital First newsroom might want them). My boldface is the suggested column header. Following is a suggestion for how it should be filled in:
- Slug. One-word identifier for this content.
- News. Brief description of the issue or event being covered.
- Staff. Names of staff members covering (identifying lead staffers if it’s a large team).
- SMS. Whether a text alert should be or has been sent, and whether updates are likely.
- Email. Whether an email alert should be or has been sent, and whether updates are likely.
- Tweet. Whether the news has been tweeted, with or without a link, and whether more tweets are expected.
- Facebook. Whether it has been or should be posted to Facebook, with or without a link, and whether the post is likely to need updating.
- Google+. Whether it has been posted to G+, with or without a link.
- Visual. What are plans visual content such as breaking photos for social media and web, video, photo galleries, multimedia, etc.? If not clear from staffing, this column might identify who is providing visual content. Another approach would be separate columns for photo (could be multiple columns, perhaps for breaking photo for social/web, photo gallery), video and multimedia.
- Visual social. Mention plans for sharing photos and videos via Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tout, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr and/or YouTube.
- Web. When it was/will be posted to the web and plans, if any, for updating.
- Mobile. Whether anything special is being done for mobile platforms, including an iPad edition. If your newsroom is providing separate types of content for tablets and phones, this could become multiple columns.
- Sharing. Is this a story of potential national or regional interest that you should share with other newsrooms in your company or in any sharing arrangements you might have. In the case of Digital First Media, is this a story you should alert Thunderdome or other newsrooms in your geographic cluster about?
- Live. Plans, if any, for live coverage, including tools and techniques used, such as ScribbleLive, feeding in live tweets, live chat, livestreaming video (staff or embed from another source), etc.
- Crowdsourcing. What, if anything, are you doing to invite the community to contribute to the story?
- Data. Plans, if any, for database use.
- Graphics. Plans, if any, for graphics. On which platform(s) will you use the graphic(s)?
- Blog. Is the story mentioned (or should it be?) on appropriate topical blogs on your site? Or is it a story that originated in a staff or community blog? Does the story present an opportunity for engaging with any community blogs?
- Links. Does the story have links to digital sources of information used in the reporting? Does it have links to earlier stories you have written on this topic or issue? Does it link to competing media or distant media who have reported some of this information already?
- Other. If the story will have sidebars or other elements not covered in the other columns, you should have a place to mention them.
- Response. If you are producing content that is critical of someone or accuses someone of wrongdoing, what have you done to reach the affected people and seek their response?
- Accuracy. Have you applied an accuracy checklist to ensure that your facts are correct? Are you struggling to verify key pieces of information? Should you withhold publication of some or all of the information until you verify facts? Is there a responsible way to crowdsource verification for this story? You should note any corrections needed or already made in this column.
- Concerns. Does this present legal issues that might require consultation with an attorney? Does this present ethical or sensitive issues that will require the top editor’s attention? Does the story use unnamed sources and has the appropriate editor approved the granting of confidentiality? Spell out the concerns and make sure you address them before publishing.
- Webcast. If you have a daily news webcast, is this a story you suggest for inclusion?
- Print. Do you suggest this for the print product, and if so, how long do you expect that version to be? Should it be considered for Page One or a section front? What other elements should be used or considered for print? This could easily be multiple columns: Print, Length, Page one, Section, Sidebar, Visual.
- Promotion. What digital content should you promote in print and vice versa? Where might you share links externally?
Have I left out anything that should be considered? Do I have too many columns here? Should some (social media, for example) be consolidated? Would you change the order? I know your feedback and examples of the budgets you use will be helpful to Richard and to other newsrooms in Digital First and other companies. (Again, please share budgets that work effectively for your newsroom.)
Some of the columns I suggest might be helpful for a while as you are changing newsroom habits. For instance, if you aren’t using many links now, but want to do a better job of linking, you might use the links column for a few months or years until linking becomes routine. Or if you are starting use of accuracy checklists in your newsroom, you put that on the budget until the practice becomes routine.
I suggest experimenting with various formats, with the following goals:
- Effective communication about plans.
- Efficient communication about plans (you don’t want filling out the budget to become burdensome).
- Provide a checklist for things to consider in planning stories.
- Provide appropriate planning and communication for different platforms.
- Recognizing that, as Jeff Jarvis says, we need to think of a story as a process, not a product.