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Archive for the ‘Project Unbolt’ Category

Kevin Moran's Twitter avatar

Kevin Moran’s Twitter avatar

I like the way the Berkshire Eagle has undertaken the challenges of unbolting its newsroom from print processes and thinking.

The Eagle is one of four pilot newsrooms for Digital First Media’s Project Unbolt. In a series of seven blog posts starting here, I will present the Eagle’s “Unbolt Master Plan,” with my comments and advice for other newsrooms undertaking the challenges and opportunities of Project Unbolt.

In the preamble of the Unbolt Master Plan, Kevin Moran, Vice President of News for New England Newspapers, explained the process:

In February 2014, The Eagle’s newsroom broke into committees to develop our Unbolt Master Plan. Our Master Plan committees tackled each of the Unbolt pillars. From there, each committee deconstructed each pillar and reconstructed that facet to fit into a reincarnated Unbolted Eagle newsroom. The plan that follows was coalesced on March 8, and it continues to be a work in progress and a living document. We had nearly 100 percent newsroom participation.

A master plan by itself achieves nothing. In fact, an 18-page master plan risks being loaded with bull’s-eyes for staff members to criticize, mock and eventually to note the goals you failed to achieve. But here’s why I like the Eagle’s master plan and am optimistic that it will drive the newsroom’s transformation:

  • Kevin quickly made this a project for the full newsroom staff by forming committees to plan the Eagle’s work. By dividing up the work and the responsibility, the Eagle quickly involved the full staff in the unbolting work and got the staff invested in finding solutions and achieving the transformation.
  • The Eagle organized the staff’s committees along the six primary pillars of transformation we address in the project: news coverage and storytelling; planning and management; mobile; standards; engagement; processes and workflow. Each committee addressed one of the six pillars, ensuring that the newsroom wouldn’t get bogged down in one particularly challenging area or overlook one. (The next six posts in this series will address the Eagle’s efforts in each of these pillars.)
  • In each of the six areas, the Eagle committees set broad objectives and specific goals to help move the newsroom toward the objectives.
  • For each of the goals, the committees spelled out the time frame for achieving the goal. Journalists work well on deadlines, and the plans for achieving these goals appear to me to be ambitious but realistic.
  • The Eagle quickly moved from planning to execution. An excellent master plan could actually be an obstacle to transformation if you spent three months working on it, as you easily could. Action is more important than planning when it comes to transformation because planning by itself achieves nothing. But the Eagle did its planning quickly and moved on to action. So the plan gives the action direction and purpose.

I’ll present and analyze the Eagle’s plan in the next six posts in this series, one for each of the pillars.

Though I haven’t written about Project Unbolt for a while, the Eagle and other DFM newsrooms have been actively working on their transformations, as this master plan illustrates.

I spent most of six weeks visiting the New Haven Register, working most closely with that newsroom, and will blog more about its work in the coming weeks. I’ll also blog about the unbolting efforts of the other two pilot newsrooms, the El Paso Times and the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

I’ll also blog (and/or publish guest posts from colleagues) about the work of other Digital First newsrooms that weren’t selected as pilot projects but that didn’t wait for reports from the pilot newsrooms to start their own unbolting.

My blogging about Project Unbolt has been stalled by a combination of my work on that project, some other travel, work on the annual DFMies and the distractions of the Thunderdome demise. But we’ve wrapped up the DFMies and compiling the lessons and achievements of Project Unbolt will be the focus of my remaining time with Digital First between now and July 1, when I leave the company.

Other posts on the Eagle’s master plan

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’s plan for stronger engagement

The Berkshire Eagle unbolts from its processes and workflow from print

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Project Unbolt logoA leading challenge in unbolting newsrooms will be to help enterprise reporting break free of the “Sunday story.”

For decades, most newsrooms with Sunday papers target their best enterprise for that day, when space is generous and daily news is usually light and readers are likely to spend more time with the newspaper. But Sunday is an awful day for web traffic. Our digital audience is more engaged during the work week.

The Digital First approach to enterprise reporting has largely been to publish our Sunday stories online Saturday or Friday (if the reporter turns them in on time and we finish the editing early enough). But our best enterprise still gets muted impact with the digital audience, publishing on the weekend or late in the work week. And the content still generally revolves around a long text story that was planned for print.

Planning for enterprise stories needs to focus on how and when we tell the story digitally. Presentation of some of that content as a Sunday print story should be an afterthought (like digital planning often tends to be now). We might not develop a single approach that we use for all enterprise stories, but through experimentation develop a handful of approaches that work for different types of enterprise stories.

As I help Digital First Media newsrooms “unbolt” from our print workflow and culture in Project Unbolt, I have suggested that we develop some questions to consider in planning enterprise stories. I’m not suggesting that all these questions be considered for every story (it’s quite a long list), but some of them (and most or all of the umbrella topics below) should be considered for every story. (more…)

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Photo linked from Wikimedia

I’ve written about Project Unbolt for the new Culture Change blog of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association.

Some of the content will be familiar to readers of this blog, because it’s essentially an overview of Project Unbolt, which I announced here in January.

I took a new approach in this post, though, noting how deeply our corporate culture is rooted in being a newspaper factory:

I always loved working in a newspaper factory.

I worked in the newsroom, far away from the fast-moving machinery — unless you counted my typewriter keys as deadline approached. But I was well aware my building was a factory and my company a manufacturer.

You smelled ink when you walked into the building. You heard and felt the rumble when the press started. In the hallways and lunchrooms, the inky smears on clothing and skin identified the factory workers who turned my words and my colleagues’ work into the daily miracle.

Once, as editor of the Minot Daily News in 1992, I got to yell, “Stop the presses!” (You had to yell, by the way, or you wouldn’t be heard.)

Much as I loved the factories I’ve worked in, I also embrace my current professional challenge: “Unbolting” my company’s newsroom from the factory’s deadlines, culture, and processes. …

I hope you’ll read the whole post and become a regular reader of the Culture Change blog, where I’ll contribute every couple of months.

In the context of that blog, I needed to move on to the topic rather than elaborating on an old memory from the factory, but I’ll tell here briefly about the time I got to yell “Stop the presses!” (I’m operating from memory here, but I think I remember the details well.) (more…)

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Christopher James

Christopher James

An email from Christopher James brought an interesting perspective to Project Unbolt.

Chris is a former sports writer at the Berkshire Eagle, one of our Project Unbolt pilot newsrooms. He won a DFMie last year for sports writing, then took a job as sports editor at the Mountain Press in Sevier County, Tenn.

Here’s what Chris said in his email (which I’m using here with his permission):

I haven’t had the time to read all your unbolt posts, but they touch on a lot of themes I’m trying to emphasize here as well. So forgive me if you’ve spelled this out, but it seems to be the obvious, perhaps unsaid idea here is that the newspaper (or Tout or video or photograph or social networks) aren’t the products. They’re delivery services for the product which is good storytelling, journalism, etc. (more…)

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Mike Crist, a Digital First Media colleague at the Delaware County Daily Times, asked recently about the importance of editing as newsrooms change:

Good question, actually. I answered in a few tweets, but said it would probably be worth a blog post. So here goes:

Project Unbolt logoEverything has changed in newsrooms and Project Unbolt is designed to accelerate that change in Digital First newsrooms, “unbolting” from our newspaper-factory processes and developing new processes (and standards) for a newsroom primarily focused on producing digital content.

We still want rigorous editing, but how we edit will certainly change. If “rigor” means multiple layers of editing, like newspapers enjoyed back in the day, I believe that won’t be returning. Newsroom staff cuts have already reduced editing ranks, and Project Unbolt isn’t going to change that. If we’re successful in growing digital revenue, we can stop the staff reductions and perhaps grow someday. But unbolting needs to happen, whatever size staff we can maintain.

I do expect every journalist who handles any copy, starting with the reporter, to edit rigorously. Absolutely we need to write and edit grammatically and follow AP style (or a local newsroom’s style) in our stories. And verify our facts.

As I have noted before, reporters (and photojournalists who write cutlines and occasionally stories) need to take responsibility for the quality of their own writing. (more…)

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The point of Project Unbolt is not to wrench the four pilot newsrooms free from print culture and workflow. We want to unbolt all our newsrooms from print.

We decided to concentrate our attention initially on the four pilot newsrooms: New Haven Register, Berkshire Eagle, El Paso Times and the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

I was planning some specific steps to encourage other newsrooms to start their work in the next few weeks, but was delighted by an email yesterday from Nancy March, editor of The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. She is already hard at work leading the Merc staff in unbolting. (more…)

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The first week of February was my best traffic week in a long time.

The first week of February was my best traffic week in a long time.

I had a lot of traffic on my blog the first week of February, nearly 12,000 views, one of my best weeks ever. So I must have been busy posting popular content, right? Not really. I posted three times last week:

That’s it. Fresh content accounted for fewer than 400 views that week. My fresh content did better the week before and the week after. In fact, my content from the previous week did better that week than the fresh content did.

Yet I had the busiest week I can remember (weekly traffic stats only go back to July in my WordPress dashboard and I’ve paid closer attention to monthly and daily traffic).

The point here is not to boast about that week’s traffic (or to expose the weak traffic for the fresh posts), but to emphasize the importance of understanding metrics, not just following them blindly. (more…)

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Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record for pass completions in a game. But he still had an awful game, showing how metrics can be misleading. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post. Used with permission.

Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record for pass completions in a game. But he still had an awful game, showing how metrics can be misleading. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post. Used with permission.

Sports uses metrics much better and more creatively to measure success than news organizations do. Sports metrics (sports fans are more likely to call them stats) also illustrate how misleading numbers can be.

You know who owns the Super Bowl record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl? Peyton Manning, who set that record this month in perhaps the worst loss of his career.

Manning, the Denver Broncos’ quarterback, completed nearly twice as many passes as Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl for 74 more yards than Wilson. But no one watching that game thought that Manning played a better game. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoOne of our most important challenges in changing Digital First newsrooms will be measuring success. As I explained last month, Project Unbolt involves changing the culture and workflow of our company’s newsrooms.

But how do we measure our progress? How do we know when we’re succeeding? I’ve asked the editors of our pilot newsrooms to consider these questions as they assess their newsrooms against the characteristics I’ve described of an unbolted newsroom.

In some cases, we will be able to chart our progress using detailed metrics that are already available to us. In other cases, we might need to measure ourselves in some way (and decide whether the time and effort of measuring are worth the insight we gain). In some respects, numerical measurement will be difficult, but we can describe how we operate now and how we’ve changed at some point down the road. Project Unbolt will probably require all of these ways of measuring and more.

(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

Live

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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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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