Archive for January, 2014

I had more views in January than I’ve ever had in a month on my blog. Sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday, I passed my record of 32,725 set in October 2012. Traffic this morning was at 34,815. I’ll certainly top 35,000 for the month, with a reasonable shot at 36K.

Update: With 1,116 views on Jan. 31 (my 16th day over 1,000 views in January), I ended January with 35,739 views, beating my old record by more than 3,000.

For a variety of reasons, my traffic in 2013 had dipped below 2012 levels, running 20,000 to 25,000 views most months. A post about Twitter and competition on Saturday, Jan. 4, started a surge in traffic like I hadn’t seen in over a year. Where weekend traffic usually runs a little over 500 views a day, I had 3,500 views that day and 2,000 that Sunday and then topped 2,000 again on Monday (weekday traffic normally runs a little under 1,000).

With that kind of start, a strong month was almost guaranteed. That post about Twitter and competition had 6,668 views in January. The only post to draw more traffic in a calendar month was my Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon … post in April of 2012, which topped 8,000 posts its first month.

A couple of follow-up posts on livetweeting and on how word of that competition post spread in social media added another 797 views combined.

A second factor in the strong January traffic was the growing popularity of a post from last summer, providing advice on what to do if you hit Twitter’s limit of 2,000 people that anyone can follow. Above that limit, you need to meet a certain ratio of followers to people you can follow.

This traffic is largely search-driven and resulted in 2,208 views in January. Traffic to that post has climbed every month since August, and it got twice as many views in January as it did in July, the month it was published. As I suggested in the post, Twitter should consider whether it needs to adjust that limit or provide a way for legitimate Twitter users to get exceptions. It’s not a good thing for a business when thousands of people are searching Google for help on dealing with a limitation of your product.

Those two Twitter posts (plus the follow-ups on the competition post) combined for nearly 10,000 views for the month, more than one-fourth of the blog’s traffic for the month. I need to remember that when Twitter questions arise, I should blog about them. I had been procrastinating for months about the post on the follower limit. (more…)


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Project Unbolt logoAs Digital First Media works to “unbolt” our newsrooms from print processes and culture, we need a vision of the “unbolted” newsroom.

This post will elaborate on the characteristics of an unbolted newsroom, the goal of Project Unbolt, which DFM announced yesterday, following John Paton’s first public mention of the project last week.

In yesterday’s post, I described this newsroom generally, saying it will change in six characteristics (not listed in any particular order):

  1. Coverage and storytelling
  2. Processes
  3. Engagement
  4. Planning and management
  5. Mobile
  6. Standards

Here I’ll describe in some depth how the unbolted newsroom works and thinks in each of these respects. How newsrooms will achieve each of these priorities will vary according to a variety of circumstances such as size, clusterwide operations and the creativity and talents of local staff. The issues and techniques listed here are not exhaustive and do not preclude local newsrooms from pursuing digital priorities not spelled out here.

I welcome suggestions about points I’ve omitted here or better ways to make my points. I’ll update as I get suggestions.

Coverage and Storytelling


Virtually all event coverage and breaking news coverage are handled as live coverage, with ScribbleLive, livetweeting, livestreaming, etc. This includes sports events, government meetings, trials, community festivals, etc. (more…)

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Patch logoA colleague asked for my thoughts on the latest round of Patch layoffs and the decline and possible demise of the company.

My first thought is sincere best wishes and empathy for the hundreds of Patch employees losing their jobs (and those who earlier lost their jobs), including some friends.

Patch hired a lot of good journalists and did an excellent job covering a lot of communities (including the area where I live and many communities covered by my Digital First Media colleagues). We just hired Don Wyatt, a Patch editor, as our vice president for news in Michigan. Whenever journalists lose jobs, I hope for better opportunities around the next corner.

I won’t pretend that I ever studied Patch closely. When it launched, I was focused intensely on the launch of another much-hyped local news product, TBD. When a member of our TBD Community Network expressed concern about competition from Patch, I blogged about the possibility of collaborating with competitors, but otherwise I haven’t had much to say about it.

From TBD I moved to DFM (then the Journal Register Co.), where I had a similar intense focus on my duties on this job. So Patch has always been on the edge of my consciousness, but never a topic of concentration.

Granting that I didn’t study it closely, it always appeared to me that Patch was more innovative and experimental in trying to develop a new approach to local news coverage than it was to developing a new approach to local commerce.

I thought Patch had the potential to develop and succeed at moving beyond advertising into more meaningful revenue sources. I thought its national scale and digital roots gave it potential to develop some of the revenue sources I have encouraged news organizations to explore, such as databases, local search, direct sales and commissioned obituaries and other life stories.

If Patch tried any such innovative approaches at generating revenue, I never became aware of them. And they certainly never succeeded in building a sustainable business.

I welcome a guest post from anyone who has watched Patch closely or who worked for Patch. Maybe you can answer better than me: Why didn’t Patch succeed?

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UnboltDigital First Media newsrooms are still largely print newsrooms with digital operations “bolted on.”

That truth hurt at a meeting in Denver last year, when DFM CEO John Paton used the description in a meeting of our company’s senior editors. Our newsrooms have made lots of changes to increase and improve our use of digital tools and our engagement on digital platforms. But I had to nod my head when John said it. I’ve visited all of our daily newsrooms and some of our non-dailies and the statement rang true.  

Project Unbolt logoSo we’re going to take a massive wrench to the culture and workflow of our newsrooms and unbolt them. Welcome to Project Unbolt.

As John explained last week in his address to the Online Publishers Association, “Starting with some test sites we will work through every process, every workflow step of what makes a digital newsroom digital and make that the very core of what we do.”

I started working on the plan for Project Unbolt almost as soon as John used the metaphor. He was right and we needed to change our newsrooms’ culture and workflow so he couldn’t repeat that observation this year.

John told the OPA, “The newsroom of the future is not the current one dragged into it. It is going to be re-built from the ground up.”

So here is our plan for doing that: unbolting or rebuilding or whatever metaphor you want to use to change our newsrooms into that “newsroom of the future.” The plan will be updated as we benefit from more staff members’ ideas and as we learn from our successes and mistakes, but here’s the plan we’re starting with: (more…)

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Verification HandbookI was honored to have been involved in the writing of The Verification Handbook, which is available now as an ebook.

I’ll blog more about it later after I read the other chapters (I wrote one chapter). For right now, I’ll say:

  • Congratulations to Project Manager Rina Tsubaki and Editor Craig Silverman. It was a pleasure to work with you.
  • Thanks for involving me.
  • I’m delighted that this book is geared not just at journalists, but emergency workers, humanitarian organizations and others who gather and distribute information, especially in crises.
  • For more on the vide0-documentation story I told in my chapter, check out my recent blog post on that story.

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Thanks to Chip Scanlan for sending along this advice for a new adjunct journalism professor, responding to my post about teaching lessons a variety of ways (I added a few links):

Put Student Work on Display

Chip Scanlan, photo by Bruce Moyer

Chip Scanlan, photo by Bruce Moyer

Building on your point about showing work, good and bad, I think it’s important for students to see and comment on each others’ work. Journalism, after all, is an act of public performance.

Students need to learn how to handle criticism, develop the toughened skin needed especially in an age where their work is available everywhere and forever more. The approach I prefer when asking for comments is to pose two questions: What Works? and What Needs Work? We build on success and positive reinforcement guides students to a greater understanding of journalism that meets the needs of readers.

What Needs Work? can be tricky. The default question, and one that students and professionals alike often revert to is “What Doesn’t Work?” What Needs Work? helps students see both the flaws and points them toward revision without destroying their confidence. It’s not an ego-booster but a motivator. (more…)

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Thanks to Steve Klein for this contribution to my series of advice for a new adjunct journalism professor:

Steve Klein

Steve Klein

Too often, new instructors are over-ambitious in the classroom.

And even some veteran teachers never seem to learn that one thing.

A teacher can bring a packed 20-pound bag of valuable learning to a class but probably only has time — and the necessary students’ attention span — to empty a fraction of it.

Which brings me to “The One Thing.”

What do you most want your student to learn from each class?

What will each student remember from each class?

What will each student remember at the end of the semester?

What will each student remember five, 10, even 20 years later?

That’s why you don’t want to over-pack that bag you bring to class.

And that’s the one thing every teacher should remember!

Steve sent this slide show to make his “one thing” point:

Buttry note: I welcome guest posts from other journalism faculty — adjunct or full-time — for this series. Or if you’re a current or recent journalism graduate, I’d be interested in your observations about what your professors did that was most effective and what didn’t work as well. Please name any professors you’re praising, but I’m not interested in giving you a chance to publicly bash professors you didn’t like. If you’d rather contribute from your own blog than as a guest post, send me a link and I’ll promote it here.

Earlier advice for a new journalism professor

Advice for a new journalism prof: Teach lessons a variety of ways

7 types of content to include in journalism classes

Curt Chandler’s advice to a new J-prof: Don’t assume, show examples

J-prof’s challenge: Use experience to teach specific lessons, not to bore

Teaching advice from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham: Learn how academia works

Chris Snider’s teaching advice: Students learn from presentations

Journalism teaching advice from Pam Fine: Get ready for grading

Teaching advice from Norm Lewis: What students learn is most important

Tim McGuire: ‘Experimentation is the soul of effective teaching’

Lori Shontz’s teaching advice: Listen to your students

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I’m leading workshops today on doing better stories. In two 90-minute workshops, we’re going to cover a lot of ground at the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association Symposium in Calgary.

The workshop will cover material in these blog posts:

Finding and developing story ideas

Suggestions for livetweeting

You don’t tip competitors on Twitter, you beat them

Tips on verifying facts and ensuring accuracy

My version of Craig Silverman’s accuracy checklist

How to verify information from tweets: Check it out

Organizing a complex story

Make Your Story Sing:  Learn from songwriters how to tell stories in just a few words

Strong from the start: advice for writing leads

Make every word count: Tips for polishing and tightening copy

I’ll discuss these stories:

The Homecoming

The Farragut Admiralettes

Roy Wenzl’s “mystery child” story

The rescue of the twins

Here are my slides for the workshop:

I’m going to use some songs and a video clip to make some points. Here they are (this will be more helpful for the people in the workshop; if you weren’t there, they might not all make sense):

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A complex story should not be challenge to the reader or viewer, however challenging it is for the writer. Careful work in organization of your reporting, digital production and writing will help readers make sense of stories that deal with cumbersome economic or technical issues, or with soap-opera tales that present multiple characters and confusing turns. These techniques will help keep the complex story clear.

Use digital storytelling tools

Reporters with long print experience tend to think they need to squeeze everything into the text story that they love to write. Digital First journalists need to think about the best tools for telling each part of the story.

The bigger the story, the more different digital storytelling tools you should consider. But an important part of organizing the story is to avoid overwhelming the reader or viewer with every fact and every tool you might use. Choose the most important information and then decide which tools share that information the best. Much of the success in a complex story is in those difficult decisions of what to leave out.

Videos and photos

For the strongly visual aspects of the story, use the best visual storytelling tools. Instead of writing a sidebar on a topic with visual appeal, or squeezing it into your text story, make it a Tout video or a longer video and give it prominent play in the package.

Or tell a story in a photo gallery. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an effective photo gallery saves you a lot of writing and lets the writer concentrate on the points that are best conveyed in words. (more…)

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I’m presenting a workshop on social media this afternoon for the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, meeting in Calgary.

Links related to the workshop are my #twutorial series, especially the posts on breaking news, advanced search and livetweeting. We’ll also be talking about crowdsourcing and Facebook engagement, including the use of photos from your archives.

Here are slides for the presentation:

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Clayton Christensen, photo linked from API

Clayton Christensen‘s diagnosis of how the newspaper industry blew its Newspaper Next opportunity is dead-on.

In an interview with the American Press Institute’s Millie Tran, Christensen discusses several new disruptive challenges and opportunities in the media. But this exchange hit home with me (I added some links):

What did you think of the industry’s reception of the ambitious Newspaper Next project that you worked on with the American Press Institute back in 2006? Today, would you prescribe different things or in different ways?

CHRISTENSEN: My sense of the Newspaper Next project is that people read it as an interesting, academic exercise but somehow, whether it was our fault or theirs, the report was consumed at the level of the brain and not the heart.

Most newspapers decided that might happen to others but it doesn’t happen to us. And on a day-to-day basis, you don’t feel it until it’s over. And now there are a lot of people who are saying oh my gosh this really is happening in many ways. The degrees of freedom that are available are far more limited now than they were. (more…)

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Fifty years ago today, City Editor Gale Cook of the San Francisco Examiner sent the note below to his staff.

Gale Cook

Gale Cook

I remember memos like this from editors, saved a lot from my bosses and wrote a few for my staffs. I really like this one and share it with permission of Cook’s daughter, Jennifer Cook Sterling. Jennifer’s husband, Robert Sterling, is editor of the Marin Independent Journal, a Digital First newsroom, and Mimi and I enjoyed dinner at their home last summer. (Update: Robert has blogged about Gale and his memo, too.)

I will comment on some of Cook’s note, but I don’t want to interrupt it. So I’ll let it run in full (it’s long, as editors’ memos to the staff can sometimes be, five pages, single-spaced). Then I’ll comment. But one note here that will help you understand the first paragraph: The Examiner promoted itself as the “Monarch of the Dailies.”


I want to offer you some ideas for improving our newspaper – things we can do to strengthen the Monarch’s position in this jungle fight for circulation. (more…)

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