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Posts Tagged ‘Denver Post’

Contact information on a news site is certainly a matter of customer service. I’d argue that it’s also an essential form of community engagement. But what about journalism ethics? Is easy access to journalists a matter of ethics? I think so.

Whatever factors you think should motivate contact information, I hope you’ll agree with me that many news sites make it difficult to contact them. And nearly all should do a better job.

Before I make some recommendations and examine some news sites and report on how easy it is to find out how to contact someone in the newsroom, I’ll make the case that accessibility is a matter of ethics:

Correcting errors is one of the basics of journalism ethics, mentioned in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist and Radio Television Digital News Association Code of Ethics. We’ll correct more errors if we learn about more of our errors. And if we’re easy to reach, we’re going to be more likely to learn about our errors.

The New York Times study of the Jayson Blair case revealed that people who read his fabricated stories didn’t bother to contact the Times because they didn’t think anyone at the Times would care. As much as I believe in corrections and accuracy, I don’t bother to request corrections about every error published about news I’m involved in (and my most recent request was ignored anyway). I think news organizations need to invite access and requests for corrections, or they won’t become aware of many of their mistakes.

I think if you tried to reach many news organizations through their websites today, you might come to the same conclusion: that no one there cares. Readers and viewers shouldn’t have to work to call our errors to our attention. (more…)

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Digital First Media logoAnything I have to say about Digital First Media today is speculation or observation but I will speculate and observe.

(I’ll explain in some detail at the end of this post what I used to know about DFM operations and strategy, and what I don’t know now.)

A tough sell

My first observation: Selling this scattered company and its diverse properties has probably been much more difficult than anyone thought last year when executives decided to pursue a sale. My first knowledge of plans to sell the company was that they would likely sell it in pieces. I think the difficulty of that job led to an effort to sell it in one piece, as Ken Doctor reported last year. That led to a pending $400 million purchase by Apollo Global Management. Ken’s speculation – more informed than mine, but probably not coming from DFM sources – is that the deal fell through over price.

I think DFM CEO John Paton, Chief Operating Officer Steve Rossi (who will become CEO take over the company’s reins in July) and whoever is making decisions for Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns DFM, have decided that some individual parts of the company will attract higher value separately. I think they’ve decided the higher values of some individual pieces will be worth the trouble of operating and eventually selling or shutting down the properties that would be more difficult to sell, or possibly operating a reduced company after selling the most attractive parts.
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This week I saw a post from a Digital First Media newsroom in my Facebook news feed, and was surprised to see it there. I “liked” dozens of DFM newsrooms during my time there, but don’t particularly care to follow their news that much now.

So I decided to unlike the page. And, while I was at it, I went into the list of pages I liked and decided to unlike a bunch more — at least two dozen, maybe three (it was probably an oversight that I didn’t like all 75 DFM dailies and some weeklies). And most of them, I had no idea I was even following because, well, they never showed up in my news feed. In fact, I’m not sure how that one showed up the other day because I hadn’t seen it in ages. I only recognized two or three of the ones I dropped as occasionally showing up in my feed.*

That illustrates a problem for news brands. I know every one of those newsrooms I unfollowed has staff members faithfully posting all of their stories, or several stories they think have the most appeal, to their Facebook pages daily. And most of their “fans” never see most of their posts.

The most recent estimate I’ve seen of the percentage of fans seeing a typical post was 16 percent, and that was in 2012, and the figure has certainly dropped as Facebook has made several algorithm tweaks, all designed to make it harder for non-paying brands to get their posts seen.

Maybe the number is something like 10 percent these days, but it will frequently be many of the same people, and probably 70 to 80 percent of your fans almost never see a post. They’re surprised when you show up in their news feed, as I was when my former colleagues’ post showed up this week.

But Facebook traffic is growing in importance for news sites. Parse.ly reported last August that Facebook drives 70 million page views a month to news publishers, second only to Google and more than twice as much as Twitter.

In addition, Parse.ly reported this month that stories with a higher Facebook referral rate have a longer shelf life, attracting traffic over more days than stories that don’t get strong engagement. Higher Twitter referral rates also help shelf life, but not as long as on Facebook.

So Facebook is an important source of news-site traffic, but engagement on Facebook is more complicated than simply posting links there (since most people don’t see them). (more…)

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If reports are correct, my former company, Digital First Media, is going to sell to Apollo Global Management for about $400 million.

I’m not going to pretend I can analyze what that means for DFM, my many former colleagues there or for the news business. I hope for the sake of my many friends remaining in the company’s newsrooms across the country that the Apollo’s management will find a path to prosperity that doesn’t involve endlessly cutting staff. I hope the company will genuinely pursue the kind of digital creativity that the future demands and will have the staying power to let good ideas flourish.

Since seeing initial reports about the pending deal, I’ve wondered about the meaning of the $400 million sale price, reached in a long “auction” process that sought the best deal(s) to sell the company as a whole or in pieces.

The reported price tag is a breathtaking fall from what newspapers used to be worth, even in the past few years. I hope this means Apollo’s strategy isn’t to keep cutting staff to maintain profits. DFM doesn’t have much left to cut, and values have dropped as newspapers have been cutting. The best way to maximize this $400 million investment will be to build value by developing new revenue streams.

Comparisons of sales prices of media companies can be misleading. One sale might include more real estate, while another might include more debt or pension obligations. Successful subsidiaries can add value to a company. In a sale such as the DFM deal, which is essentially between two private equity companies, full terms may never be disclosed. You might not be comparing apples and oranges, but apples and lawn mowers.

I was not involved in the sale at all, other than losing my job last year as the company was preparing for the sale. But I understood DFM enough to know this was an extraordinarily complicated deal, with an array of factors that make it unique: (more…)

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A Pew Research Center study of three U.S. media markets has lots of interesting fodder and lessons for journalists and newsrooms.

In Local News in a Digital Age, Pew studied local news coverage and consumption more thoroughly than any local news study I’ve seen. I encourage reading the full 160-page report, which provided detailed studies of the news environments in Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa.

The study includes a survey of people in each community, asking extensive questions about their community involvement and news consumption, as well as a detailed study local news providers, including all the content during one week (last July) and a computer analysis of Facebook and Twitter content and engagement with local news providers.

I’ll present my thoughts on the Pew study in three sections:

  1. What the study says about media and lessons we can draw from it.
  2. My evaluation of this study (or opportunities for future studies). I was sharply critical of Pew’s 2010 study of Baltimore’s local news market, so I think I should address what I see as strengths and weaknesses of this study. This project leaves plenty of opportunities for further study of local media, but I find it far more thorough and credible than the 2010 study, which was so biased I said it was useless.
  3. My Denver and Sioux City experiences (neither of them a big conflict, but both worth disclosing).

Findings & lessons from the Pew study

Pew’s story up high presents the obligatory disclaimer:

These cities are not meant to be representative of the United States as a whole, but rather serve as detailed case studies of local news in three specific, unique areas in the U.S.

Yeah, but …

Pew did the study because the data from these three specific, unique areas would have value to others in the media. And I see several areas where the study reveals or confirms facts that will be helpful beyond the communities studied: (more…)

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I led a webinar today on digital approaches to enterprise stories. It mentioned these links as advice and examples:

Questions to help newsrooms unbolt enterprise reporting from the ‘Sunday story’

Five Satins: A ‘Sunday’ story published digitally the Monday before

‘In the Still of the Night’: Five Satins recorded biggest hit in New Haven church basement

Sunshine Week project showed digital-first enterprise approach

Sunshine Week project

Denver Post’s Chasing the Beast

Denver Post’s The Fire Line

Nola.com’s then-and-now Hurricane Katrina photos

ProPublica Patient Harm Facebook group

Gettysburg 150 app

Here are my slides from the webinar:

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A frequent question I hear from journalists interested in learning Twitter overlaps with an excuse I hear from those resisting Twitter:

“No one cares what I have to say,” goes the excuse. “What should I tweet?” goes the question.

My answer: Tweet about what you’re working on. And if no one cares about what you’re working on, find better stories or find another line of work.

I continue my #twutorial series with some advice for journalists on how and what to tweet: (more…)

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I have a fondness for copy editing and copy editors.

I learned more in my copy editing class than in any other course I took at Texas Christian University back in the 1970s (hat tip to my instructor, Jim Batts). I learned as much in my two years on the Des Moines Register’s copy desk, also in the ’70s, as I’ve learned any two years ever in my career. And I worked with an extraordinarily talented group there.

I got to be a pretty good copy editor and self-editor (I’m the only editor of this blog, though I often read a post to Mimi and occasionally she will read a post before publication). But still, copy editors saved me from embarrassment many a time in my reporting days (at the Omaha World-Herald, Sue Truax once asked gently about a drought story if I meant to say the city was encouraging water conservation rather than consumption. As embarrassing as that was, it was so much better than seeing it in print).

Copy editing is the quality control function of a newsroom, and quality matters. But the economics and workflow of the news business have changed, and copy editing must change, too.

Digital First newsrooms in Denver and the San Francisco Bay area have changed their copy-editing operations, as Steve Myers reported in some detail for Poynter. We’re trying two different approaches, each with fewer copy editors and fewer reads before a story is published online or in print. The Denver Post no longer has a copy desk; copy editing is handled by assigning editors (with some former copy editors moved to the assigning desks). The Bay Area News Group still has a copy-editing operation for all its newsrooms at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., but some stories will get only one read there, rather than two, after being read by assigning editors. (more…)

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We’re getting ready to take some of our Digital First Media newsrooms on the road.

Four newsroom vans will roll into neighborhoods in the coming months, loaded with the equipment and people of community engagement projects.

We will launch the Mobile Community Media Lab projects in Connecticut, the San Francisco Bay area, the Twin Cities and York, Pa.

Digital First Media announced plans today for 12 community newsroom projects that will engage our communities in a variety of ways. In addition to the four mobile labs, we will be launching university partnerships, remodeling newsrooms to provide space for the community and planning special projects in our existing space. (more…)

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I congratulate my Digital First Media colleagues on today’s launch of American Homecomings, a yearlong storytelling project that will chronicle the lives of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The soldiers will share their experiences as they reintegrate into American society, shedding light on the challenges they face upon returning from the battlefield,” said Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of Digital First.

The project has been directed by Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post, and Lee Ann Colacioppo, the Post’s senior editor/investigations.

Journalists from the Post, the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich., Salt Lake Tribune, New Haven Register, Chico (Calif.) Enterprise Record, Contra Costa Times and the York (Pa.) Daily Record tell the stories of eight veterans who have agreed to tell their stories. (more…)

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I’ve written a lot about Twitter’s value in covering breaking news. But don’t forget to post breaking news, especially photos, to Facebook, too.

Jon Hill, online editor of the Lowell Sun, demonstrated the power of a breaking news photo on Facebook yesterday, almost inadvertently. He was working the early-morning shift when a fire broke out at a popular local pizza parlor.

Jon hustled over to the pizza place and shot a photo. The website was down briefly, so he covered by Twitter and Facebook. (more…)

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I’m learning lessons about social media nearly every day. But I learned long ago that few things touch people like photos of animals. The two types of learning come together in this story of a mountain lion, a Maine coon cat and some smart journalists at the Denver Post using an array of social media tools.

In a couple of recent meetings, I have met and discussed community engagement with Post colleagues, gaining respect for their smart use of social media. We will be working together much more closely as the Journal Register Co. partnership with MediaNews progresses. In our initial meetings, I have seen multiple ways we could benefit from sharing our ideas and insights in both directions.

I’ll start that by sharing, through this post, a great example of using social media in multiple ways to bring some fun content into the site and then to bring attention to that content. What’s interesting is that the photo in question actually was submitted initially to a TV station’s website, and the station wasn’t making full use of it. Then the Post journalists tracked down the photographer, got more pictures from her, and multimedia magic ensued. (more…)

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