This is the last in a series of seven blog posts about the Berkshire Eagle Unbolt Master Plan (which I explained in the first post). A staff committee 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 unbolt the newsroom from the processes and workflow of print. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan lightly edited, with my comments in italics.
What are workflow and processes?
Currently our workflow happens in a variety of ways:
- Digital journalists file stories. Filed copy is read and edited and sent to the web. Stories are then put in system for print.
- Digital journalists (early and late shifts) write breaking stories that are sent to the web. Stories are then put in system for print.
- In the sports department, the workflow process has been reprioritized to so that all stories have hit the web before the last page has been sent. Priority is given to game stories, which hit the website first, followed by daily roundups (as scores are called in later).
How do we apply Unbolted workflow and processes?
In an Unbolted newsroom, the workflow focuses on content creation and production primarily for online platforms first, with the printed page being the end result.
Goal: Stories flow to the web throughout the day, with content being prioritized, i.e.: breaking news takes precedence over a feature; a story about a meeting the night before should be completed and ready to web the following morning/day if not webbed at night.
- Some stories need to be filed immediately and then “freshened up” as more information becomes available, or using the AP lede-writethru approach as we do.
- Articles that are filed at the hour of print deadline and appearing in the next day’s edition should be online before pagination is completed. Content should already be on the web.
- There should not be a “midnight dump” or any “content dump” for any of our departments. For example, Berkshires Week and Shires of Vermont content should be put up during the week — with all content for the week being put online by Thursday (when it comes out in print). New content should begin appearing on Friday.
Issues: The website is not currently set up to display multiple days of content. Stories are pushed off of pages and are no longer visible. (They are searchable.) Some stories are republished on the website. Publishing too soon or without editing can lead to errors. Published pieces need to be complete: Photos, Touts, videos, etc.
Time frame: Most we are already doing immediately, but others in stages. However, we will need to determine priorities for publishing and deadlines. Will need to determine who makes decisions; who sends to web and how online editor is notified so packages can be completed. Do this by Spring 2014.
- Online editor needs to be made aware of Touts/Videos/Photo galleries so packages are complete.
- We need also need to train all staff members in SmugMug use. Photos must go on SmugMug, as it serves multiple purposes – archive, sales, easy access for web updates, slideshows. (Jen Huberdeau can make a visual guide to help facilitate this.)
- Digital deadlines are different than the old print deadlines for filing stories. We no longer adhere to print deadlines of file by 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
- Digital deadlines are moving targets — with stories undergoing live revisions and updates as necessary.
- Daily/weekly Budgets (for all departments) should be shared via Google Docs/Drives to ensure those without NewsEdit access (online, photo) can view them.
- Photos: Photos need to go to SmugMug as they are completed, with online galleries then being posted to the Berkshire Eagle Media Center.
- Sports: Stories are already posted as they are completed. Staff posts live updates to Twitter. Staff does at least 1 Tout a story. Staff already embeds slideshows, Touts, etc.
- News: Non-breaking or developing news stories should flow in as completed. Multiple versions may be necessary. Deadlines for editorial flow should be matched to times readers are on website: early morning, before lunch, etc.
- Feature stories should be treated differently than regular news. We need to data mine to see when features are being read and target those times/days. Buttry comment: This will be important research in unbolting. As we learn if particular days or times are most effective for different types of feature content, we can set content and plan deadlines for those stories based on digital needs, with print publication (if they appear in print) following independently.
Goal: Editing time and energy are focused on ensuring and improving quality of content before (or quickly after) digital publication. Ideally, stories are edited as they come in; or, they are read by the digital editor who then sends the finished product to the web.
- In the case of liveblogs, a digital journalist who is reporting live, may never put together the finished story. Another digital journalist or editor would write the story based on the information coming in via the live blog or tweets. Digital journalists can also use the live blog to put together a finished story. A good example of this is the Adam Lee Hall liveblog. Another example: We pulled closures and other information from a snowstorm liveblog to flesh out a weather story.
Buttry comment: In an email exchange about the snowstorm liveblog, Kevin added this:
But THE place to also “liveblog” weather is on Facebook. It’s best to do both the site and Facebook. Why Facebook? It’s because that’s where everyone is looking during snowstorm cancellations and there’s a lot of engagement there.
Time frame: Ongoing, underway.
Goal: Reporters and local editors write strong SEO headlines for content. SEO stands for search engine optimization — search engines (such as Google) will use headlines, keywords and page metadata to rank articles and websites.
- SEO is not just about having the name of a town/city in the headline.
- Web headlines should be different than print headlines. It’s best to think about what you would search for on Google.
- Training. Put this in The Eagle Training Calendar
- We can make up a guide using some of our existing material.
Goal: Everyone needs to promote their work and everyone else’s work on social media. But it’s more than sharing a link on Facebook and Twitter. There are numerous platforms and we must use the right platforms at the right times.
- Lifestyles and Berkshires Week really need to be on Pinterest, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
- Photos: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Video: YouTube, Tout.
Online Editor Jennifer Huberdeau led the processes and workflow committee, joined by Digital Sports Editor Matthew Sprague and reporters Ed Damon and Andrew Amelinckx.