This is the third of seven blog posts about the Berkshire Eagle Unbolt Master Plan (which I explained in the first post). Staff committees developed the plan in response to my call for newsrooms to free themselves from print culture and workflow in six primary areas.
This is the plan to drive the unbolting of the Eagle’s planning and management. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan, with my comments in italics. Responses from Managing Editor Tom Tripicco, who headed this committee, are included in bold, following my responses.
What is planning and management?
In terms of daily news planning and management, The Eagle’s workflow already is such that we post news stories (content) as soon they’re ready. The next natural step in that process is to use social media to drive readers to our site to read those stories.
How do we apply Unbolted planning and management?
We know that some up-front time spent in planning and managing that plan is far preferable to developing The Eagle’s daily and next-daily (weekly) news coverage. We aim to plan and manage our coverage in a proactive way. (We’ll always have to react to unexpected breaking news.) We need to plan and manage SOCIALIT to avoid duplications of effort and to ensure that the newsroom has a single resource that serves as the document that shares the daily coverage plan.
Buttry comment: Kevin’s explanation, provided at my request in yesterday’s post: “SOCIALIT is Tom Tripicco’s buzzword that’s caught on in our vernacular: When a story (breaking or otherwise) or photo gallery, etc., gets posted, we “social it” — tweet it, post on Facebook, etc., to touch all the social media bases.”
Goal: Establish a specific criteria for who is responsible for making the posts that link to the content, at what point in the day it should be scheduled if there is flexibility (e.g., not breaking news, developing news), such as features, etc.
- Develop a master content document. A copy of the daily budget with sports, features and editorial included, that resides outside of the current editorial system (Google Drive)? Serves as a log of what stories already have been posted to the site; that budget could serve as a guide to the late web reporter, who will be responsible for scheduling posts/tweets to hit during the crucial a.m. peak traffic time. Buttry: The key to effective news budgeting is developing a document that is helpful in coordination of the newsroom’s work without adding unduly to the work. I blogged last year with some thoughts on a Digital First news budget. I look forward to seeing how the Eagle and other Project Unbolt newsrooms improve their budgeting. Tom’s response: Admittedly, our budget remains print-centric. I’ll dip into that blog post for ideas.
Time frame: Develop Google Drive document by June 30. Currently using editorial system.
- News releases, community items posted. All daily news releases are edited and then immediately posted online in a news feed online.
Time frame: Underway, ongoing.
Goal: Use Twitter regularly with each posted local story (or other story of import). Facebook needs to be managed for maximum penetration, but not as a fire hose. Drive traffic to the site by regularly linking to stories once they are posted.
- Schedule social media posts to correspond with high traffic periods to maximize page views. With breaking news, we link to stories as soon as they are posted.
Time frame: Underway, ongoing.
- With more typical daily news stories, we post at regular intervals — every hour during non-peak traffic and on the half or quarter hours during peak times. And within that cycle, we tailor content to the time of day, much like we do our morning greeting/weather forecast: Food stories leading up to mealtimes; entertainment stories near primetime; straight news at peak wakeup times; lifestyle stories during work hours. Regular updates could feature lists of headlines at key intervals, say every three hours. But we stop short of plastering readers’ feeds.
Time frame: Underway, but loose. We need to develop more consistent practice with regard to this content.
Buttry: Management of social media needs to go beyond the planning of posts linking to newsroom content. We need to also plan responsibility for listening to (and responding to) the community, engaging the community in conversation and using such techniques as crowdsourcing and curation.
I blogged in 2012 about how a conversational Twitter presence delivers better results for those posts promoting links to your coverage and in 2012 and 2013 about the value of photos and questions for stimulating Facebook conversations (and, again, delivering better results for those promotional posts).
Tom’s response: As far as social media, Jenn Smith, our community engagement editor, and Jen Huberdeau, our online editor, both do a fantastic job with using Twitter and FB in just the way you describe. I have a buddy at my old paper in Poughkeepsie who’s a music writer, but also has a great touch with social media — I plan to encourage some of our reporters to watch and learn from his posts.
Goal: Use Tout as more than just a breaking news tool.
- Use Tout video to deliver news updates and headlines at key times; maybe reports at 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. And these can be done at remote sites that use well known Berkshires sites and landmarks as a backdrop to engage viewers, such as North Street on Third Thursdays, Hancock Shaker Village in the early spring (baby animals) or Tanglewood at high summer. Buttry: I love this idea. Can’t wait to see how it works.
Time frame: Develop this by July 15.
- (See Coverage and Storytelling: Live coverage.) We seize on opportunities to live blog municipal meetings when deemed newsworthy, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Reporters can post links to previews and previous stories early on to engage readers, then post timely updates during the course of the meeting. Scribble Live also can be used to Tweet out major developments, key votes, etc. And then after the fact, the liveblog can serve as a resource, both for the reporter as a collection of notes and for the public who may want to follow the meeting proceedings after the fact.
Goal: Training. Period.
- With the dizzying onset of new technology, training is crucial. Different staffers have varying degrees of comfort and familiarity with different formats. The most effective training is hands-on — set up a live blog and coach reporters on how to tweet and use the proper hashtag to actually see it work in real time. Set an editor up at the dashboard and let him/her search for a story, open the copy, change or update something and approve it, or create a new story. Photographers should offer tips and techniques for shooting photos/video on mobile devices. Buttry: Training has never been more important in newsrooms. It was a critical part of my visits to newsrooms throughout the company, and Thunderdome colleagues provided valuable training to the New Haven Register as part of Project Unbolt. With my departure and the demise of Thunderdome, DFM newsrooms are going to have to provide internal training as outlined here. And newsrooms will need to share training expertise, using webinars and digital discussion groups to share their lessons as they continue their digital transformation. The DFM Training Council needs to recruit more editorial participants (Mark Lewis and I are both leaving the council, and other valuable trainers such as Mandy Jenkins, Tom Meagher, Karen Workman, Chris March and Julie Westfall are also leaving). And the newsrooms need to develop effective ways to share the expertise of experienced trainers such as Ivan Lajara, Buffy Andrews, Dan Petty and Martin Reynolds. And the company needs to nurture and develop new training experts that develop from internal training efforts such as the Eagle is planning.
- Time frame: Underway, ongoing. Our weekly training is called “Tuesdays at 2,” and consists of up to 30 minutes of newsroom training on a variety of technology tools (Twitter, NGPS, HootSuite, etc.) Continue to add to and develop The Eagle Training Calendar. Buttry: Every newsroom needs a weekly commitment to training and a training calendar, such as the Eagle is developing.
- Pursue IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) Total Newsroom Training application for the two-day course in watchdog and enterprise reporting here at The Eagle.
Time frame: IRE training is July 8-9.
Goal: Every topic listed above begins with planning at the morning budget meeting.
- Reporters, photographers and editors brainstorm ways to seize opportunities throughout the day. Which meetings are best to live blog; where a Tout might work; what stories can be photographed by a reporter and what stories warrant a photographer; what state or regional stories may be ripe for localization
Time frame: Ongoing, underway. Should be re-examined for efficiency, improvements along the way. Buttry: I’ve sat in on the Eagle’s morning meeting. It’s an excellent model for daily newsroom meetings: held out in the newsroom, with participation from the full staff, not just the editors; focused on news coverage, not on the morning newspaper.
- Set deadlines for early versions of stories where appropriate.
Time frame: Ongoing, but loose. Outside of breaking news, don’t want to interrupt the current practice of posting developing news stories (not of a breaking news nature), but set up firmer digital deadlines if that makes sense.
- Establish Google Form budget lines. Could use Forms and merge that with our Digital Tools Checklists to account for every component of news coverage from subject to times to SOCIALIT components to blogs. Can have this dump directly into a Google Spreadsheet daily budget. Buttry: The checklist was embedded in yesterday’s post.
Time frame: Need to rough this out in Forms.
The Planning and Management work was led by Managing Editor Tom Tripicco, assisted by Digital News Editor Erik Sokolowski, reporters James Therrien, Nathan Mayberg, High School Sports Coordinator Josh Colligan and editor Daniel Harris.
Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan