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Archive for the ‘Project Unbolt’ Category

A news meeting at the Bangor Daily News. Photo courtesy of Anthony Ronzio.

A news meeting at the Bangor Daily News. Photo courtesy of Anthony Ronzio.

The New York Times is trying to make its morning meeting an all-platform discussion, rather than its traditional meeting discussing what’s on page one. Public Editor Margaret Sullivan used the changed meeting as the opening of her Sunday column:

IT’S Wednesday morning and 39 editors have filed in to the 10 a.m. meeting in The Times’s third-floor conference room, some carrying laptops and smartphones, others with pens and notepads.

The meeting, which until recently concentrated on the printed newspaper, now emphasizes a different discussion: journalism on the digital platforms of The Times. There was praise for headlines that had contained the right words — both “Eric” and “Cantor,” in this case — to maximize online search results; a query about whether a story would be accompanied by a video; and talk about how to give a political package more weight on the home page.

There was even a half-joking reference to the readership spike that came after an initial foray on Twitter by the new executive editor, Dean Baquet, who had praised coverage of a Brooklyn funeral and provided a link.

The column moved from the meeting anecdote on to broader questions about the Times’ challenge of developing a stronger digital focus to reflect the growing challenges and opportunities of digital publishing.

Times Innovation report

The changes to the morning meeting also were discussed in the Times’ Innovation report:

The newsroom is unanimous: We are focusing too much time and energy on Page One. This concern — which we heard in virtually every interview we conducted, including with reporters, desk heads, and masthead editors — has long been a concern for the leadership.

And yet it persists. Page One sets the daily rhythms, consumes our focus, and provides the newsroom’s defining metric for success. The recent announcement from Tom Jolly to focus the Page One meeting more on the web report is a great step in the right direction, but many people have voiced their skepticism that it will truly change our focus.

their skills and how they could be put to use. “You can’t take new talent and put them in old structures where they are second-class citizens,” said the editor of one competing newspaper. “That is not real change. You must change the structure of power.”

Here is a typical complaint from a Washington reporter who frequently appears on A1:

“Our internal fixation on it can be unhealthy, disproportionate and ultimately counterproductive. Just think about how many points in our day are still oriented around A1 — from the 10 a.m. meeting to the summaries that reporters file in the early afternoon to the editing time that goes into those summaries to the moment the verdict is rendered at 4:30. In Washington, there’s even an email that goes out to the entire bureau alerting everyone which six stories made it. That doesn’t sound to me like a newsroom that’s thinking enough about the web.”

My earlier post on newsroom meetings

In last year’s series of advice for new Digital First editors, I included a post on leading digital-first meetings. That seems timely to repost now, both as part of this year’s Project Unbolt discussions and because the two Times pieces have raised the issue of focusing newsroom meetings on digital platforms. So here’s that piece again, with minor updates and editing:

Daily news meetings are an important place for editors to emphasize priorities.

If a morning meeting focuses on the next day’s newspaper, that will be the focus of the staff’s energies. A Digital First editor should place the focus, especially in a morning meeting, on plans and results for digital content. Don’t critique the morning paper (or, if you must, critique it briefly at the end of the meeting). Instead, you should discuss what’s resonating this morning with your digital audience: What’s getting strong traffic? What’s generating comments on your site or your Facebook page or on Twitter? Do you have plans (or should you make them) for advancing those stories through the day?

If you have projection capability in your conference room, show the site and/or your Facebook page and/or your analytics page(s) on the screen to aid in the discussions.

Discuss digital coverage plans for the day: What video are you shooting? What stories might you be able to supplement with YouTube videos? What stories provide good crowdsourcing opportunities and how should you pitch them to the community? What are photo gallery opportunities, and are you planning to shoot them (and/or to seek community photos)? What events will you be covering live this day (and the next)? Will you be livetweeting them, liveblogging, livestreaming or some combination? Are you planning a live chat about an event or timely issue (or should you?)? Discuss what you’re promoting (or will promote later in the day) on social media.

The meeting also should reflect that mobile content and audience are growing in importance (more than one-third of Digital First newsrooms get half or more of their digital audience on mobile platforms). Look at your tablet and phone apps during the meeting to see whether the right stories are featured and how your content is displaying. If you can project a laptop or phone screen, that would be great, but holding a device up or passing it around will work. (At a recent meeting of Digital First senior editors, one editor showed that a photo was displaying improperly on his newsroom’s iPad app and quickly messaged back to his newsroom to get it fixed.) Discuss opportunities for engaging with your mobile community.

(I addressed mobile issues further in a post on mobile opportunities, a post on the mobile aspects of the Berkshire Eagle’s unbolting plan and a guest post by Dan Rowinski.)

For the morning meeting, the print product should be an afterthought: Perhaps a brief mention of which stories have page-one potential or of any graphic elements for print that will need attention early in the day.

Two Digital First newsrooms that have an excellent digital focus to their morning meetings are the York Daily Record and Salt Lake Tribune. The Bay Area News Group, which has a morning conference call of editors from multiple newsrooms, has dramatically changed the focus of its morning meetings in the past couple years from print to digital.

If you have a late-afternoon meeting, that can focus appropriately more on print. Most of your day’s digital news traffic and coverage is behind you and the print deadlines are approaching. Go ahead and make your page-one plans. But even here, you need to mix in some digital discussion. If you have some evening events, discuss your live coverage plans. If you have an afternoon or evening iPad edition, discuss which stories will be ready and how they will be played. Facebook use gets a boost in the evening, so you should also plan some evening posts.

Maybe you should overhaul your meeting(s) in other ways. Should you scrap them altogether and communicate through a shared Google doc or gchat and/or smaller conversations with one or a few staff members at a time? Should you invite all staffers into a meeting that’s now just for the editors? Or should you invite staffers from remote bureaus or sister newsrooms to join by conference call or Google Hangout? Should you meet in the middle of the newsroom instead of a conference room?

Should you livestream the meeting or invite the public to attend in person, as the Register Citizen does in Torrington, Conn.? If you do, you might want to tell staff to tone down foul language or edgy sarcasm, if your meetings tend to be foul or sarcastic. And you certainly need to tell staffers to be careful not to mention details that shouldn’t be public, such as confidential sources, juveniles whose names you won’t be publishing and speculation about people who might be charged with crimes.

In some posts in this series, I have discussed examples where my leadership was successful, which can come off as boasting. So I should acknowledge here that I was not successful in significantly changing how we conducted meetings when I was editor at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I did not want to take over running the meetings, so I mentioned to an editor who led most of the meetings how I would like the meetings to change. I would often (if I attended a meeting) ask some questions about live coverage, video or other digital aspects of our coverage, but the focus of the meetings did not change as strongly as it needed to.

At one point when I engaged the staff in working on several aspects of change, a couple of staff members were going to study our meetings and make some recommendations about how to change them. I moved on from the editor’s role before we made those changes, and I don’t know whether or how they changed their meetings.

I think I directed my energies to important areas and made significant changes. But meetings are an important – if often boring and ridiculed – part of newsroom culture. I did not sufficiently change the strong print focus of our meetings at the Gazette. Five years deeper into the digital age, an editor with print-focused meetings needs to take charge of the meetings and ensure that they reflect and guide your newsroom’s digital focus.

How does your newsroom focus on digital and mobile platforms in your meetings?

Crowdsourcing note: I wanted to post a photo of a newsroom meeting at the top of this post, but I couldn’t find one I’ve shot. If you have one I can use (with credit, of course), please email the photo (or a link to an online photo) to me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com. Update: Thanks to Tony Ronzio for the photo above. And don’t miss his post on the Bangor Daily News’ digital-first enterprise projects

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Digital First Media’s Connecticut newsrooms did some old-school watchdog reporting in their Sunshine Week project this spring. But they took a digital-first approach in planning and executing the project.

This post is mostly going to be a guest post by Viktoria Sundqvist, investigations editor for the Register Citizen and Middletown Press. Vik and Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, investigations editor for the New Haven Register, led the project, published in March. They started planning the project and did the reporting while I was in Connecticut working on Project Unbolt and I made a tiny contribution.

This was a traditional watchdog reporting project in many ways:

  • The project held local police accountable, checking how well every police department in Connecticut followed the state’s Freedom of Information law.
  • The work involved shoe-leather reporting, with reporters from DFM’s newsrooms visiting every police station in the state to ask for records that should be public (I checked the town of Plymouth).
  • The reporters wrote a big newspaper story about their results.
  • The project had impact, forcing changes by police departments that were revealed to be violating the law.

Here’s how the project took a different digital-first approach: (more…)

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Returning to my March discussion of unbolting enterprise stories from the Sunday story, I’m going to discuss how the New Haven Register staff handled two enterprise stories earlier this year.

I encourage you to look at both story packages:

  • Mark Zaretsky’s story on the Five Satins, the group that recorded the classic song, “In the Still of the Night” in a New Haven church basement 58 years ago (and, amazingly, all the singers are still alive). The story included a video and photo gallery by Peter Hvizdak.
  • Digital First’s Connecticut newsrooms collaborated on a Sunshine Week project checking the compliance of state police departments with the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

I’ll deal with the Five Satins here and with the Sunshine Week project in a subsequent post. First, an admission: I should have published both of these posts much earlier, when the stories were still fresh. Life intervened and pushed them back on my to-do list for too long, but I want to publish them as I’m wrapping up my contribution to Project Unbolt.

I also should note at the outset that my observations about the Five Satins story are a rewrite/update of an email I sent Mark and the editors after the story initially published online. The story was well under way by the time I arrived in New Haven, pushing for the staff to rethink how we handle enterprise stories.

The Five Satins reflected some of the unbolted enterprise approach I’m advocating (published online Monday, six days before appearing in print on a Sunday; strong multimedia elements). But I thought deeper planning for the digital audience could have resulted in improved engagement and stronger digital content, so I provided suggestions for doing better in future stories. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoAn important aspect of unbolting your newsroom from print is working on a digital schedule rather than a print schedule.

The morning newspaper’s evening deadlines result in most reporters turning in their stories in the evening as the print deadlines approach. The “digital-first” version of that tends to mean posting the stories online in the evening after they’re edited, rather than the late-night or early-morning web dump that used to be standard.

But your digital audience is engaged during the workday. That’s when you should be covering the day’s news. In future posts about Project Unbolt, I’ll address live coverage of events. And most newsrooms understand now that we have to cover breaking news online as it unfolds. But we haven’t done much with providing timely coverage of the routine daily stories.

On lots of beats, most daily stories aren’t events and aren’t really breaking news. They’re other types of stories: (more…)

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Tom Meagher

Tom Meagher, linked from Inside Thunderdome

If you run a newsroom or wish to lead a digital transformation in your newsroom, you should read Tom Meagher‘s Things I never learned at newspapers about making news on the Internet.

Go ahead. Read it and come back. Nothing I say here will make sense until you read it.

Now that you’ve read it, some thoughts from me:

You should get to work quickly learning and applying the points he discussed. This is as helpful a guide for transformation of a newsroom as anything I have written or will write about Project Unbolt, so I’m making it part of my Unbolt series (I’m planning several more posts this month).

Tom said it all better than I will, but I’ll elaborate on a few of his points: (more…)

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Belated thoughts on the big developments at the New York Times recently:

I have started twice in the past week to blog about developments at the New York Times. First, I was going to blog about the initial report of the Times Innovation Team, which raised lots of issues for all newsrooms trying to transform digitally. Digital transformation has been the focus of my work at Digital First Media, and I was going to draw some lessons from the Times recommendations for Project Unbolt.

Then I was going to blog about the firing of Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times. I will post some observations about Abramson later in this piece, but I doubt I can add much insight beyond what’s already been written.

Mostly, I want to call my DFM colleagues’ attention (and the attention of everyone trying to change the culture of entrenched print newsrooms) to the full report of the innovation team (leaked to Buzzfeed and both more blunt and more detailed than the summary report). You should read the full report (you can ignore the sanitized version). Then you should read Josh Benton’s piece on Nieman Lab. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoThis 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:

  1. Digital journalists file stories. Filed copy is read and edited and sent to the web. Stories are then put in system for print.
  2. Digital journalists (early and late shifts) write breaking stories that are sent to the web. Stories are then put in system for print.
  3. 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).

(more…)

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Project Unbolt logoThis is the sixth 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 for engagement. Community Engagement Editor Jenn Smith, chair of the engagement committee, rewrote part of the plan in response to my suggestions. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s revised plan lightly edited, with my comments in italics.

What is engagement?

Engagement must exist on two parallel levels in The Berkshire Eagle newsroom. 

As a productive news outlet and agency of community engagement, we must adopt and exercise proven ways of gathering, communicating and sharing content and also strive to innovate new best practices within our industry. We will be advocates for our journalistic standards, practices and products by initiating two-way communication with our audience to generate ideas and feedback and to promote reader contributions as well. Where communications may struggle, we will work to meet our audience members at their level and help them to access the various tools and products we use to share news.

As a newsroom, it must become our practice, our habit, our instinct to constantly and consistently inform and share our work, ideas and give feedback on the content with produce. We shall focus on methods of collaboration versus insular or rogue pursuits, and provide quality technology and ongoing training to help improve these news practices. While we may have designated newsroom leaders, we also respect and encourage individuals and groups of staff members to express and share their specific skills sets, expertise and experiences.

How do we apply Unbolted engagement?

In the context of the newsroom, it’s the state of a news staff being geared up and ready for action — to tackle what the day and night bring, to communicate among themselves and with people in the community, and to share what we learn 24/7 in the most well-informed, efficient and meaningful ways possible. We want to add value to people’s lives by being their go-to source for information that is accurate, timely, helpful, depthful, relevant and presented in a well-rounded objective manner.

We also must actively reach out to the community to show that we’re ready to not only listen to their feedback, questions and ideas, but to respond. To do this successfully, we must remain alert and flexible. If someone cannot navigate our digital content, we must show them how by providing a personal response to their email or creating and sharing a tutorial. If we’re providing a liveblog, we must proactively promote the link to our readers and provide a place where people can easily recognize and access the link. If we’re excited about a contest we’re hosting, we need to share our enthusiasm through ongoing tweets and social media posts.

We need to continuously keep in contact with community entities — from animal shelters to youth centers, public health initiatives to human rights organizations — about how they’re addressing issues in the community and discuss with them how we might best keep people in touch with events, forums, initiatives, etc. Just as we encourage people to be active and informed citizens, we too must practice and maintain a leading role as a civically engaged community member.

Action plan for staff and community engagement

Goal: To develop and revise our practices based on six tenets: Transparency, conversation/social media, curation, interpersonal connections, networking and proactive outreach. 

The following represents recommendations of initial priorities for Project Unbolt in The Berkshire Eagle newsroom:

Transparency

For newsroom:

  • Identify and articulate shared goals in how to improve communications amongst ourselves, particularly among reporters and editors. By doing so, we can better address issues such as story duplication and over-scheduling; planning coverage when reporters and editors are absent or on vacation; planning multimedia packages, informing op-ed pieces, etc.

Time frame: Have meeting or send out survey in next two weeks.

I asked Jenn for an update: 

We have not done a formal survey. At 10:15, Monday through Friday, we have what we call “morning meeting.” Prior to each meeting, I also send out a weekday email to connect with people, share some kudos, discuss issues and give friendly reminders about deadlines or style changes/issues. This, along with our new Training Tuesdays initiative have become venues to address these issues.

For example, several reporters have done stories on Obamacare and Massachusetts Health Connector issues. When someone files a budget line via email or shares their story idea in person during our meeting, we tend to talk it out on the spot or come up with a communication plan. Someone might say, “That’s a great story idea, you should talk to…” or “Hey, I think Jim might be working on that. You should check in with him.”

By attending each meeting, managing editor Tom Tripicco or VP Kevin Moran will also chime in with their insight, since they have a bigger picture view of what everyone’s working on.

By being around to hear story budget lines, photo editor Ben Garver can then prioritize what to shoot and what multimedia packages to make.

Jen Huberdeau also tends to chime in about how people might be responding to a news story on Facebook, which guides us on how to address ongoing coverage of an issue. We also communicate a great deal through email, our internal chat system, phone calls and text messages about things like reporter absences, if someone has to run out or has a questions about story coverage, etc.

We include our Northern Berkshire bureau by having conference calls and group emails. People have been pretty responsive and communicative using the above methods. 

  • Create and post in the newsroom, perhaps on the bulletin board, a definitive work flow schedule and daily deadlines, staff roles and responsibilities. Also determine daily checklist priorities. Buttry question: Is the bulletin board actually used? Should this be shared digitally either in addition to or instead of posting there?

Jenn’s answer: 

Kevin Moran shares our weekly schedules through Google Docs, and also on a physical bulletin board. Any daily deadline changes are communicated through a news staff email, usually in the morning one I send out, or through something Tom or Kevin sends. Kevin is also composing and distributing and meeting with individuals or small groups about roles and responsibilities. Generally, everyone tries to file budget lines by 11 a.m. We also now talk about best practices and responsibilities during Training Tuesdays.

  • Establish and encourage an internal culture of sharing each other’s work, promoting content like “Behind the Beat” blogs, and helping each other find ways to get involved in community activities in the context of sharing their work (i.e.- community panels and forums, radio shows, volunteering, etc.), respectful to the level of agreement, comfort and interest of the staff member.

Time frame: Effective immediately.

Update from Jenn:

Yes, this is happening. News staffers tend to tweet and RT blog links, and we share them on our Facebook page. Sports staff Howard Herman and Matthew Sprague and I regularly participate in local radio shows. As community engagement editor, I attend a lot of community panels, presentations and lead newsroom tours. Jen H. recently served as a panelist on a school public speaking contest and participated in a community reading day event. I’m hoping to continue to network and get more staff involved in things like this.

  • Develop and implement an internal system where people can solicit feedback, share concerns about conflicts of interest in coverage, and where people can stay informed of Eagle, NENI and DFM developments, from Unbolt rollout to technology and software updates like the laptop and Saxotech rollouts.

For our community

  • Promote and share “Behind the Beat” and “Unbolt” blogs. Advertising side can also help do this. Create tandem Facebook pages for the “Behind the Beat” blogs for North County, Central County and South County to foster more reader interaction.

Time frame: Currently practicing.

Time frame: TBD.

Conversation

  • Practice more crowdsourcing for public opinion for stories, i.e.- medical marijuana issue, hotel wars, upcoming elections and politics, school budgeting issues, etc. Facebook seems to be the leading place to do this.

Time frame: Effective immediately. Work with Jen H. to establish how staff members can create crowdsourcing posts on Eagle Facebook and Twitter accounts as needed.

  • Take inventory of social media sites currently used by individual news staff members. Ensure everyone is as least on Twitter and Tout.

Time frame: Effective immediately.

  • Ask each staff member to become an expert/regular user of at least one additional digital social medium, i.e.- blog, Pinterest, Storify, Facebook, Google+, Instagram… Any stars? Any less prominent social media represented: Quora? LinkedIn?

Time frame: Get individuals to identify and articulate commitment on at least one platform by end of week of March 9. Jenn Smith works with Jen H. and Kevin to create a quick sheet of options and descriptions of potential platforms.

  • Update berkshireeagleblogs.com listing. Make sure staff bios on berkshireeagle.com include photos and social media account info.

Time frame: Ongoing

Curation

  • Make and internally publish checklist of area websites, blogs, social media sites and other places that The Eagle can curate content from, including sister and competitor sites; local schools, businesses, law enforcement, etc.

Time frame: Start Google doc week of March 9, which staff can edit and contribute to.

Update from Jenn:

Still working on the doc but I’ve been communicating with Tom, Kevin and Jen H. about new news sites, content, etc. We have a few staff members who do this too. A couple of local radio stations credit The Eagle when they read the news. We do the same when we curate content from other reporting sources.

Interpersonal connections (aka Hangout)

  • Staff training on Google Hangouts and YouTube livecasting.

Time frame: March and April. Training includes setting up accounts.

  • Though The Eagle is a Digital First newsroom, its staff also recognizes that many audience members also prefer, and that there’s no replacement for face-to-face and one-on-one conversations and personal interactions. Brainstorm ways that each individual staff member can have regular connections with their primary audiences (take cues from politicians who do this and, as a result, become embedded in a community). Hypothetical examples: Regular South County coffee shop hours for John Sakata; a weekly Tout from Jeffrey Borak on upcoming theater performances; a monthly blog of editing and grammar tips from the Style Cop; a regular golf weather/course conditions commentary from Richard Lord.

Time frame: Spring 2014

Update from Jenn:

We’ll be doing more interactive things as the Berkshire tourism season kicks in. We also do community engagement through community generated photo galleries and have had some minimal success with contests.

Networking and proactive outreach

Time frame: Spring 2014, planning only.  

  • Identify current media and community partners. Create a list of potential media and community partners and brief descriptions on how we might sustainably cross-promote each other.

Time frame: Spring 2014, planning and strengthening existing networks.

  • Create and develop a protocol and procedures with local schools and emergency responders on who to contact at The Eagle to post emergency notices, from snow days to pipe bursts, violence or natural disasters.

Update from Jenn: 

We don’t have anything in formal writing/handbook form, but we do have an ongoing morning protocol of communication via email about breaking news, and are working on a weekend structure. Jen H. and I work on things like closings and emergency notices. Clarence Fanto also does a great job contributing to this in terms of weather.

Jenn was joined on the committee by reporters Richard Lindsay, Philip Demers and John Sakata and visual journalist Gillian Jones.

Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan

Berkshire Eagle Master Plan gives direction to the work of unbolting from print 

Berkshire Eagle’s plan to unbolt coverage and storytelling

How the Berkshire Eagle is unbolting planning and management from print culture

Berkshire Eagle plans for mobile success

How the Berkshire Eagle plans to update and uphold standards

The Berkshire Eagle unbolts from its processes and workflow from print

 

 

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Project Unbolt logoThis is the fifth 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 update and uphold the Eagle’s standards. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan lightly edited, with my comments in italics. 

What are “standards”?

Standards establish the baseline of our credibility at The Eagle. Standards are our accuracy, ethics and integrity that build our brand as The Eagle and entrust us as the No. 1 news source with our readers. Our high standards differentiate The Eagle from the competition.

How do we apply Unbolted standards?

We adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. We aim to avoid errors, and we correct errors as soon as we learn they have been committed and after verifying the accuracy. We may offer explanations as to how the errors were made and how the correct information now affects the context of a news story.

Buttry comment: I’ve blogged about how the SPJ Code of Ethics needs updating and how the first draft of an update is disappointing. I recommend one of two approaches: adhering to Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist, which have been updated, or developing a few Berkshire Eagle additions or amendments to the SPJ Code.

The notebook

  • Create one binder/notebook for all staff members that will include materials discussed in this committee and the other Unbolt committees. Also, we need to create a “digital” notebook as well. An internal WordPress blog? Buttry: I like the idea of a blog on ethics. You need to handle it carefully, discussing issues without embarrassing staff members who have made mistakes (unless they are egregious offenses such as plagiarism or fabrication). While I see the value of an internal blog, where you might be able to be more candid, without causing embarrassment, I also encourage occasional public posts about ethical matters. I think we build credibility by telling the public about our ethical decisions and standards and our commitment to ethics.

Digital consistency

  • Put a person in charge of coming up with web uploading standards and making sure they are communicated to all staff. Create a web upload checklist (put in notebook)
  • Let’s write these down, be specific, give examples of the proper way to slug, SEO headlines (put in notebook) and make sure ALL STAFF are trained.
  • Feedback when doing web uploading wrong. Have a weekly “state of the web” email sent out to let people know when updates to protocol have been made.

Eagle style

  • Someone needs to be in charge of updating our Eagle stylebook. This person needs to be given time to do this.
  • Updated style guide put into notebook and also online where staff can access it (blog, webpage?).

Corrections policy

  • Who does the reader contact with a correction? (Make sure that person’s contact info is easy to find on the web and in print) Suggestions for policy:

o   All corrections from every department should run in the same spot in the paper.

o   All corrections should be slugged the same. Example: (Section)CORRECTION(date) and filed into B2/B3, along with an email sent to Tom and the night desk editors that a correction has been filed.

  • Online corrections: Ask online editor Jen Huberdeau to correct the error online ASAP and include an editor’s note in italics at the top of the story explaining the correction and date and time the correction was made. The editor’s note should be included online only when the correction is a factual error (i.e. spelling of name, incorrect information, wrong date, place, time) not for punctuation errors. Those should just be fixed.
  • All online corrections should also go in one place online. One suggestion is a live blog of editor’s notes (similar to what AP Breaking news does) that Jen would update after the correction is made in the story. Buttry: The New Haven Register, another of our Project Unbolt pilot newsrooms, has a corrections blog.

Accuracy checklist

Goal: Create one to print out and put in notebooks

  • Remember: Who, what, when and where
  • Spell names correctly; check with that person in person and verify place names. Do a quick Google search on the name, or even check Facebook, especially when the name is a questionable spelling.) Before hitting send, check the names one more time!
  • Check phone numbers (Google search)
  • Check web addresses
  • Double check locations (Everyone should have a map of their coverage area. Also, someone with local knowledge should put together a “common mistakes” list when it comes to local streets/places to help new reporters.) Is your sense of direction correct?
  • When writing about an event: Time, date, place
  • Any red flags? Don’t just take the police report/coach’s word for absolute, final truth. Does something seem fishy? Ask. Does a name or city street name look different? Ask.
  • Get another read before sending to the web, or putting it on the page. No editors around? Ask a fellow reporter.
  • Know your own weaknesses. Do you have trouble with numbers? Triple check your work. Are you terrible with commas? Ask an editor or reporter to double check your punctuation.
  • SPELL CHECK!

Buttry: I’m an advocate of accuracy checklists. As Craig Silverman notes, they have proven to prevent errors by other professionals, such as pilots and surgeons, and journalists should use checklists, too. Craig and I have developed checklists, but I encourage newsrooms or journalists to develop their own checklists, improving on ours.

Social media/blog standards

  • Live by the rule: “The standard is the standard.”
  • Before posting on Twitter, Facebook, blogs run through the accuracy list above.
  • Appoint a point person to do a nightly check of what our reporters/editors are tweeting/posting. Is it meeting our standards? Is someone doing a great job — and have they been told that lately?

Buttry: I pumped my fist at the suggestion of telling people that they’re doing a great job (if they are). I have noted before that praise is one of the most important and effective management tools.

Code of Ethics

  • Make sure everyone has a copy and at least one is posted in the newsroom and posted online — our readers should know the code of ethics we follow.
  • Possible additions: A reminder that these ethics apply to all platforms of journalism: Print, web, mobile, tablets and social media.
  • Respect for others in the newsroom/your co-workers. Is your space clean? Avoid using language that offends others trying to work. Buttry: These are good points, but I don’t see cleanliness or foul language as matters of ethics. Might want to change the heading or give that point its own heading.

Communication

  • Email should be a back up. Phone or face-to-face is best. Buttry: Excellent point for most important communication. Email is valuable, though, for repeating or reminding of the points made face to face, and can be efficient if people are working different hours or someone is in the field.
  • Similar to the meeting we had to roll out Unbolt, let’s have a quarterly meeting to go over large initiatives.
  • Departments should have a “huddle” once a week to go over changes, check in to see how everyone is doing, discussions about what worked and what didn’t. The “huddle”  should be quick, efficient.
  • Editors should come up with a way to encourage staff who have gone above and beyond. Maybe a monthly wrap-up of what went well? (Similar to the “Strokes and Pokes” newsletter Charles used to create.)
  • Praise goes both ways and across departments!

Buttry: I’ll repeat my praise for including praise here.

Features Editor Lindsey Hollenbaugh led the standards committee, assisted by Entertainment Editor Jeff Borak, sports writer and columnist Howard Herman, Sports Editor Richard Lord, Berkshires Week Associate Editor Maggie Button, community news coordinator Jeannie Maschino and editor and paginator David LeClair.

Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan

Berkshire Eagle Master Plan gives direction to the work of unbolting from print 

Berkshire Eagle’s plan to unbolt coverage and storytelling

How the Berkshire Eagle is unbolting planning and management from print culture

Berkshire Eagle plans for mobile success

The Berkshire Eagle’s plan for stronger engagement

The Berkshire Eagle unbolts from its processes and workflow from print

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Project Unbolt logoThis is the fourth 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 drive the Eagle’s mobile journalism. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan, with my comments in italics. Digital First Media is changing mobile publishing vendors. I am leaving in references to the new vendor, Rumble, but have deleted a reference to the name of the vendor we’re replacing.

What is mobile?

Mobile is our future. Mobile traffic in many cases already exceeds desktop traffic. Right now, our mobile does key off our desktop presentation. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoThis 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. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoThis is the second 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 drive the unbolting of the Eagle’s news coverage and storytelling. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan, with my comments in italics. I sent a draft of this post to Kevin Moran, Vice President of News for New England Newspapers Inc., and have included his responses in bold.

What is coverage and storytelling?

In the context of The Eagle newsroom, “coverage” is live, as-it-happens reporting (as the facts are confirmed, of course) of breaking and developing news, news and sports events, issues, meetings, etc. Storytelling refers to the methods or platforms — live blogs, videos, tweets, time lines, stories, etc. — in which we present our live or enterprise coverage.

Buttry comment: Storytelling is more than methods or platforms. I should have defined storytelling better. The tools, methods and platforms are essential in telling digital stories, but the story is the result of that work, something that helps the community understand the news, issues, events and people of interest and importance in the Berkshires. Stories are what people want to share with co-workers and friends on social media and in conversations around the community. Storytelling is the use of this growing journalism toolbox to tell stories, elevating our work beyond informational answers to the 5 W’s with actual story elements such as character, plot, setting, action, theme, conflict and resolution.

Kevin’s response: Agree 100 percent. My (our) motto is the story IS the thing, and nothing beats a good story told well. I say this all the time. What our challenge here is: Presuming we’re good storytellers to start (and I’ll grant that we’re good at it), how and using what methods are the best ways to tell particular stories?

How do we apply Unbolted coverage and storytelling?

The nature of the story can and should dictate what methods and platforms are most appropriate. But “live coverage is routine” (S. Buttry) for the unbolted newsroom. This can be through Twitter, Facebook, Tout and/or live blogs and/or through a digital article that develops as the news unfolds (a la the AP lede-writethru).

Buttry comment: The quotes attributed to me throughout the plan come from my post on how an unbolted newsroom works.

Objective: To continue our practice, develop and/or revise our coverage and storytelling practices based on six tenets: Live, Timeliness, Enterprise, Opinion, Beat Blogs, Data, and Photo/Video.

The following represents recommendations of initial priorities for Project Unbolt in The Berkshire Eagle newsroom:

Live coverage

Goal: Change workflows and mindsets to achieve live coverage of most news events covered by The Eagle.

  • We plan for live coverage at the morning meetings, in advance of that, or at the moment breaking news is underway. We liveblog using Twitter and/or ScribbleLive’s platform. Liveblogs are required for breaking news, news events, trials, debates, sports games/tournaments/rivalries, weather (cancellations/postponements), meetings with big issues and/or broad appeal, town meetings, City Council meetings, forums, big public events like the Ramble or the Josh Billings Run-A-Ground. Buttry comment: Planning for live coverage is essential, especially for changing the work of a newsroom that’s not liveblogging or that liveblogs only for big stories. I’ll do a full post later on the liveblogging progress of the Project Unbolt pilot newsrooms.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

Micro goal: Increase live blogs to 6 per week minimum by May 1; 10 per week by June 1. Assess future goals by June 15.

Update from Kevin: Last week we had at least eight scheduled, though five of those are trials. On April 27, we had a live blog for Divine Mercy Sunday (a big event held at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.) and one for a 7-year-old patient’s wish to become a police officer on Tuesday.

  • We promote live blogs: We SOCIALIT before, during, and afterward (wrap-up). If time permits, we have an in-paper refer. Kevin’s explanation, at my request: 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.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

  • Our components of the liveblog include: Original reporting in ScribbleLive; Tweets; photos; Tout and YouTube videos; crowd-sourced tweets, photos, videos, comments, etc. Buttry comment: This is helpful to show the variety of content that you can feed or curate into a liveblog.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing

  • For breaking news coverage, we develop news articles from the liveblog and/or Twitter. Editors and/or writers are building cohesive news articles from the live coverage. This is especially the case during trials, fires, etc., or any breaking news for which immediacy is paramount. Live blogs are on The Eagle’s Digital Tools Checklist for Breaking News Coverage. Buttry: I have embedded the list at the end of this post.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing

  • Develop weekly schedules of live blogs/chats with newsmakers and on news issues (with sources, reporters, experts). Buttry comment: Excellent idea to schedule weekly live chats on issues. These can extend the life of a feature story and become important parts of your opinion content.

Time frame: Develop a startup calendar of live-blog events by April 22. Kevin’s update: This is a time frame we are behind on. I have revised the deadline to develop this calendar for the second week in May. However, we will start the first two with a staffer covering a murder trial and then our features editors on the Berkshires’ summer season’s best bets/highlights in culture, music, theater, etc.  

  • Keep live blogs to a high standard so that they don’t disappoint. With live blogs, it should be a decent certainty that live blogs won’t be a “bust.” E.G., the event won’t prove to be a disappointment because of its short length or lack of interest or dearth of depth. We do not want to knowingly disappoint readers. Buttry comment: This is a valid concern, but I encourage risking an occasional bust. A liveblog doesn’t need to be a transcript or a firehose. If you cover a two-hour meeting that has an interesting half-hour, it’s fine to have stretches where you don’t update or just post a summary sort of update like “They’re reading a long ordinance about the fire code now. It doesn’t appear to be controversial.” If a fairly routine meeting is going to be worth 10 inches in print, it’s probably worth a liveblog with 20-30 posts. The liveblog won’t have a lot of engagement, but the print story won’t have a lot of readers either. We do the story as part of our watchdog duty, and the liveblog performs that duty even better. And the reporter was going to be there anyway. Another way of covering such an event would be to provide quasi-live coverage by livetweeting the meeting. Instead of posting a ScribbleLive that will update only occasionally, you note on Twitter and Facebook (and possibly in a story advancing the meeting) that the reporter will livetweet, so that people interested in live coverage can get that on Twitter. As the meeting goes along, an editor Storifies the reporter’s tweets. At some point when you have a decent story taking shape, the editor publishes a story with the Storify embedded and updates that through the rest of the meeting. Kevin’s response: FYI: We’ve had the “busts.” Example: We covered a mayor’s State of the City address expecting it to be at least a 20-minute speech, and it lasted all of five minutes.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing

  • Training on live blogs.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing. Assign date(s) to The Eagle Training Calendar.

  • Photo galleries are a breaking news tool. We use them not only for breaking news, but as a live coverage generator of “softer news” like events, proms, sports events, our own community engagement creatives, etc. We place a high priority on the number of galleries we generate and a great expectation on applying the maximum number of images as possible into each photo gallery.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing. Buttry note: Excellent point to include photo galleries as a live coverage tool. I like the examples for softer live news possibilities for live galleries. 

The Eagle had exceptional success in February liveblogging a triple-murder trial. Kevin blogged about the stellar engagement in the liveblog (nearly 26,000 engagement hours) and about the lessons reporter Andrew Amelinckx learned in the process. Andrew won a February DFMie for his coverage of the trial. Though it was his first live coverage experience, he learned quickly and deftly used the two-plus days of jury deliberation to continue the liveblog, answering questions from the community.

Timely

Goal: Provide “fresh news every morning” and then at every other time when it’s not morning (within staffing hours of 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.). Our goal is to change reader habits and expectations that BerkshireEagle.com is a reliably updated site throughout the day, not just a one-stop visit in the morning during our peak traffic between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily. Metric will be more current traffic from 11 a.m. on compared to a year ago.

  • Breaking news happens when it happens and we post it when it happens as soon as we’ve confirmed the facts.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

  • Our journalists are on-call for big news around where they live.
  • We need more than 1 devoted “digital editor” person to keep the site fresh.

Time frame: Evaluate ability to add digital editor, convert an existing position, and/or free up an existing editor/reporter to devote to this. Update from Kevin: What we have that seems to be working is assigning reporters to handle these responsibilities during shifts and time slots that are not otherwise covered. It’s taken some coordination, but we’re getting there.

  • SOCIALIT to every fresh news story.
  • Time frame: Underway. ASAP: Build out a Social Media appendix to The Eagle’s Digital Tools Checklist for Breaking News CoverageAgain, the checklist is embedded at the end of this post.
  • Plan for and schedule features news to lift our traffic at other times during the day, evening and night. This is strategic; outside of breaking news, we need to find what other news (features, food, etc.) resonates at what other points during the day (optimal timing). Buttry note: This is an excellent example of how Project Unbolt is a collaboration of the newsrooms, not just following my instructions. I raised the priority of publishing more news than just breaking news and live coverage during the day. But the idea of looking for optimal timing of particular types of news hadn’t occurred to me. It’s a great idea and I look forward to hearing how it works.

Time frame: Build this out by April 30. Update from Kevin: Yes, we are ahead of schedule on this (prior to April 30). For instance, theater (big deal in the Berkshires) reviews are posted as soon as the review is done, though that review that goes up on a Tuesday or Wednesday might not see print until the weekend. Features content is parceled out online sometimes days ahead of the print sections. What we have not done is analyze the metrics, which we ought to do.

  • Plan digital deadlines for non-breaking news. Need to evaluate posting. Current model is non-breaking news events provided with 5 grafs with further or complete(s) update to follow.

Time frame: Build this out by April 30. Update from Kevin: We have not formalized this; this is a time frame we are behind on.

Enterprise

Goal: Enterprise stories are not tied to print deadlines (typically Sunday). We plan them for highest impact or build toward their release using SOCIALIT, or even tied to moments of import.

  • We conference (pre-plan) all enterprise with the necessary people in the room. We develop enterprise “packages” — video, photo, data, story, SOCIALIT, etc. — at the conference. Visual news journalists are in the room for enterprise conference. We establish photo-video priorities for enterprise then. We set digital deadlines during the planning meeting. Digital deadlines are set to publish during our highest traffic periods before Sunday. (Sunday is our biggest print day, but our lousiest digital day.) We break up multiple story installments/elements parts to publish on consecutive days or times. We follow up with a live chat on the enterprise package on the next logical day. Buttry: I’ve blogged already about digital enterprise. I like the emphasis on including the right people in the planning.

Time frame: Underway, but loose. We succeeded in doing at least one major enterprise story planned according to these loose Unbolt specs by March 20. Develop The Eagle’s Digital Tools Checklist for Enterprise News Coverage by April 22.

  • Training in enterprise, watchdog reporting.

Time frame: IRE training component on July 8-9.

Buttry: I will be blogging soon about some work at the New Haven Register to unbolt enterprise journalism from the Sunday story.

Opinion

Goal: “Opinion content is a mix of editorials, columns, cartoons, staff blogs, community blogs, live chats, videos and other interactive content.”  “We … lead the community conversation … develop that leadership more aggressively and creatively using digital tools.” “We need to join, stimulate and curate the other conversations going on in the community.”  (S. Buttry).

  • Publish opinions as they’re ready.

Time frame: ASAP.

  • SOCIALIT. Creatively. What do you think? Here’s why such and such is right or wrong or good or bad.

Time frame: ASAP.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

Beat blogs

Goal: Digital news journalists and visual news journalists go “behind their stories” in beat blogs. We SOCIALIT, journalists/editors reverse publish.

Time frame: Done.

  • Digital news journalists use beat blogs to post stories about experiences, what doesn’t make it into print. “I was here over the weekend and this is what happened …” Backstories.

Time frame: Training dates for WordPress in The Eagle Training Calendar. Kevin, has this been scheduled or done? Kevin update: Our WordPress training date was April 29, and we are using this training to kick off the “behind the beat” blogs staffwide.

  • Establish visual beat blogs: One for the county. Visual news journalists post images, videos. VNJ’s write about the “story behind the photo/video,” or how the photo/video happened, or how they managed to get the photo/video, what process they used, more information about the people-things-places they got, post about local themes or trends, interesting or off-context good photos, you write the caption entries. VNJ’s look to Stan Grossfeld of the Globe.

Time frame: Establish visual news beat blogs by April 22; set expectations, deadlines. Training dates for WordPress in The Eagle Training Calendar. Kevin’s update: The visual beat blog hasn’t been set up, but Gillian Jones has been visual blogging in the North County Behind the Beat blog. For now, we’re going to let photo blog in the behind the beat blogs.

Data

Goal: “The newsroom develops data skills – both specialists and basic data skills throughout the newsroom.” “The unbolted newsroom experiments with ways to use data for journalism, interactive databases, data visualization and structuring and updating archival content for continuing value.” (S. Buttry)

  • We use visuals to explain data. We use the data that we have! We use the data that’s staring us in the face and present it. We use data to help the reader understand the story. We use data visually so as not to bog down the story. We use maps. We use interactives to develop data through crowdsourcing. (Pothole interactive.) Kevin’s explanation of the pothole interactive: Jen Huberdeau used Google maps, which worked. But using Google maps didn’t necessarily make it “easy” for people to post as there were a few hoops to jump through. Amazingly, however, a number of people jumped through those hoops. Buttry: SeeClickFix is a great tool for helping the community report potholes and other problems needing attention from the city or other local government agencies.

Time frame: Underway, but loose.

  • We need training to develop our newsroom’s data presentation skills (Prezi, etc.).
    Time frame: Ongoing, but with only two or three newsroom aficionados. IRE training component on July 8-9. Add to The Eagle Training Calendar.
  • We need training on developing our data skills.
    Time frame: IRE training component on July 8-9.

Photo/Video

Goal: “Reporters and visual journalists file photos” and Tout videos “quickly from breaking news scenes and events.” (S. Buttry) We do it well or we don’t do it at all. We use photos and videos to tell stories.

  • Staff uses photo and videos as part of their digital storytelling toolkit.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

  • Staff trains staff in photo and video skills, techniques in Pittsfield and North Adams. We train through shadowing and one-on-ones.

Time frame: Ongoing. In the The Eagle Training Calendar.

  • Develop, curate user-generated photo galleries, videos.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing. Need to assemble micro-goals for frequency, events, holidays, creatives related to this.

  • Establish photo-video as part of the overall “package.”
  • Increase the volume of photo galleries and increase the number of images in an individual photo gallery.

Time frame: Underway, ongoing.

  • Daily video updates. News reports. Updates. Creative uses.

Time frame: Develop this plan by July 15. Buttry: I was a little worried by all the April target dates I was seeing in this section. I like that this target date was set by July 15. If you try to achieve everything right away, you set your newsroom up for disappointment when you inevitably miss most of the target dates. Choosing something for a summer deadline was a good idea. 

Interactive

“The unbolted newsroom experiments with storytelling and curation tools to make stories more interactive with quizzes, interactive databases, listicles, maps, polls, timelines and other features that help users experience stories, rather than simply reading or watching them. Journalists master the tools that prove useful for frequent jobs, but are continually experimenting with new tools and techniques.” (S. Buttry)

Time frame: Need to develop this plan by mid-June. Training in the DFM Games Local Trivia asset, ASAP, by third week of April. Kevin’s update: First training in the tool is May 7.

The Eagle’s committee planning the unbolting of coverage and storytelling was chaired by Kevin. Committee members were Opinion Editor Bill Everhart, sports writer Akeem Glaspie, Scott Stafford and Stephanie Zollshan.

Buttry: News coverage and storytelling is the heart of the change Project Unbolt is seeking. The other pillars all rate to the execution and the quality of the news coverage and storytelling. I’m delighted to see that the Eagle staff developed such a thoughtful, thorough plan so quickly to transform its news coverage and storytelling.

Tomorrow: Examining the Berkshire Eagle Unbolt Master Plan’s section on planning and management.

Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan

Berkshire Eagle Master Plan gives direction to the work of unbolting from print 

How the Berkshire Eagle is unbolting planning and management from print culture

Berkshire Eagle plans for mobile success

How the Berkshire Eagle plans to update and uphold standards

The Berkshire Eagle’s plan for stronger engagement

The Berkshire Eagle unbolts from its processes and workflow from print

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