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Posts Tagged ‘Jim McClure’

I have some advice for Larry Kramer and Gannett on running a nationwide network of newsrooms as a single operation.

Ken Doctor speculated yesterday that Kramer, publisher of USA Today, might lead Gannett’s editorial operation as a single unit.

As Gannett separates its newspaper properties from its broadcast and digital properties, Doctor tried to parse what Bob Dickey, CEO of the print operation, which will keep the Gannett name, meant when he said he would be “uniting our different news businesses into a single, nationwide news powerhouse.”

Doctor observed:

If Gannett’s journalists were to be centrally directed, they would comprise 2,700 journalists, the largest single journalistic workforce globally.

Gannett logoGannett gives a lot of corporate direction to newsrooms. Currently the Newsroom of the Future is the Gannett wave, but earlier thrusts have emphasized Information Centers (2006, after the Newspaper Next report), First Five Paragraphs (2000 or so, when I was a Gannett reporter) and News 2000 (that was the priority when I interviewed for a Gannett job in 1992). And I probably forgot a few. Remind me, if you recall one I missed. Update: I forgot ContentOne (2009).

The company also is consolidating print production in regional Design Studios, a trend throughout the industry.

But, as Doctor noted, Gannett editors don’t work for a national corporate editor:

Those editors now report solely, within a traditional newspaper structure, to their paper’s publishers. Gannett senior vice president for news Kate Marymont (“My job is to elevate the journalism across Gannett’s local media sites,” says her LinkedIn job description.) leads editorial planning and strategy. Like her peers in similar positions at newspaper companies, she may act as an editorial advocate, but doesn’t have line authority.

I worked for nearly three years at a company where the newsroom editors did report directly to a corporate editor. Early in the formation of Digital First Media, I was on a conference call with all the publishers when CEO John Paton told them their editors would report to Editor-in-Chief Jim Brady. Publishers would still be in charge of the local budgets and the local operation, but for all journalism matters, Jim was in charge.

I was one of a handful of editors who reported directly to Jim, and I visited 84 newsrooms, including all DFM dailies, so I suppose I’m as qualified as anyone but Jim to share some lessons from our brief experience trying to run a single journalistic workforce.

I will neither boast of our successes here nor criticize our mistakes (mine or others’), though I will make passing references below to my DFM experiences. The lessons below are my own observations and advice to Kramer and Gannett (if Doctor’s speculation is correct), based on successes and mistakes at DFM and many experiences that were a mix of both. And I suspect some other companies might seek to better unify their news efforts.

Here’s my advice for Kramer and others who may lead national news operations: (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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This continues my series on advice for new Digital First editors.

One of an editor’s most important jobs is developing other leaders in your newsroom. A top editor should:

Understand your staff’s aspirations. Except at the largest newsrooms, an editor should take the time to learn what everyone on your staff wants from their careers. Not everyone wants to be an editor, but if someone wants to be an editor (and shows potential), you should know that and watch for opportunities to develop and show their leadership skills. On a bigger staff, you should know the aspirations of your mid-level editors, and perhaps a few other stars, and expect the mid-level managers to know the aspirations of their staffs. You can’t always control whether you hang onto your best people, but your odds are better if you know what they want from their careers and are helping them pursue those goals.

Provide opportunities. Weekend or holiday editing slots or late-night and early-morning shifts give some budding staff members their shots at running the show (as I did on Sundays as a young assistant city editor at the Des Moines Register). Give some authority (and some clear guidance) to potential leaders and see how they perform in these positions.

Know when to let others lead. Some big news stories require all hands on deck and require leadership from the top. But sometimes a top leader can show leadership by stepping back and letting the budding leaders lead. You put people in key leadership positions to do a particular job. Remember to let them do that job.

I remember hearing Libby Averyt, then the editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, describe her staff’s coverage of the big national story that broke in their back yard when Vice President Dick Cheney shot a hunting buddy in the face by accident. That broke on a weekend and Libby checked in by phone but resisted the urge to bigfoot the weekend editor by rushing in to run the show. If someone’s not getting the job done, you can often direct from home. Or you might need to come in if someone’s in over his head (then follow up with some coaching). (more…)

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Tom Barstow

As I’ve been suggesting new ways for Digital First journalists to work, I’ve been aware that my advice for copy desks has been incomplete. I made some suggestions for copy editors earlier this year, but I’ve been pondering something more meaningful for copy desks. Now I know what to say: Check out what the York Daily Record/Sunday News is doing.

A recent email listed the work done in the past week by the YDR’s Night News and Digital Desk. I asked for some elaboration and received multiple responses (lightly edited) from Tom Barstow, News Editor, Night News and Digital:

As you know, the YDR hasn’t had a copy desk in more than a year now. Instead, we are the Night News and Digital desk with multi-platform journalists on the staff. That nomenclature change has been important to re-define what we do daily beyond traditional page production and copy work. (more…)

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Filling one of Thunderdome’s conference rooms for a Thursday meeting (clockwise): Robyn Tomlin, back to camera, Mark Lewis, Julie Westfall, Karen Workman, Chris March, Jim Brady, Mandy Jenkins, Angi Carter, Ryan Teague Beckwith and my empty cupcake wrapper.

Thunderdome is happening, Baby!

I was in our Thunderdome newsroom this week, and we filled a conference room with journalists and creative energy. Our new curation team was working on a long-term project and some daily work. New politics channel manager Ryan Teague Beckwith was brainstorming convention and campaign coverage with the curation team. Thunderdome Editor Robyn Tomlin was interviewing job candidates. We ate too much cheesecake, cupcakes and gourmet chocolates. Digital First Editor-in-Chief Jim Brady and I told funny stories about embarrassing things we’d done. This is feeling like a newsroom. (more…)

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One of a news organization’s most important jobs is helping voters make informed decisions before they go to the polls. We try to do that with lots of coverage during the election campaign: stories about stump speeches, horse-race stories, issue coverage.

But the fact is that lots of voters aren’t paying attention, particularly in the down-ballot races. They might be following the presidential campaign or races for Senate or governor. But a congressional race usually doesn’t command as much voter attention. Sometimes, especially with House races and local races, voters just want some help right before election. Historically we have tried to meet that need with voter guides readers could scan through, getting a quick look at candidates’ bios and their stands on key issues.

The York Daily Record offered readers a helpful tool in deciding how to vote in Tuesday’s primary races to choose the fall candidates to replace incumbent Todd Platts in the 4th Congressional District. With seven Republicans and three Democrats, voters had lots of candidates to follow, and a poll showed that two-thirds of registered voters were undecided as the primary approached.

The Record offered a quiz, asking voters’ opinions on issues, then showing them which candidate most closely reflected their views and priorities. The quiz, powered by GoToQuiz, asked what kind of experience voters valued, whether it mattered where a candidate lived, and about views on positions such as tax cuts, health care reform, climate change and the war in Afghanistan. You choose which statement most matches your position and the quiz awards points to the candidate whose position you chose. (more…)

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Front page tease to "Finding Their Way Out" package in York Daily Record.

For most of my career, I’d need to wait until Sunday to read and write about a big newspaper enterprise project. But I read the York Daily Record and Sunday News’ “Finding Their Way Out” on Friday afternoon.

It’s an outstanding package by reporter Bill Landauer and photojournalist Jason Plotkin, designed by Samantha K. Dellinger. They examine the lasting impact of a local act of school violence. It underscores some old-school principles of journalism:

  • Reporters and photojournalists need to knock on some doors and develop good relationships to get many of the best stories.
  • Reporters and photojournalists should work together on big stories.
  • Editors should give reporters and photojournalists time to work on major enterprise stories.
  • Professional journalists bring genuine value to their best work.

The project also underscores some principles of digital journalism:

  • Digital journalism is first and foremost about doing good journalism.
  • We no longer wait until Sunday (when web traffic is slow) to publish our best work. Publishing the story online Friday and in print Sunday fits our company’s Digital First approach.
  • We build on strong reporting and photojournalism with strong interactive elements.
  • We promote and explain our work on social media and blogs.

I asked the York team some questions by email. Sunday Editor Scott Blanchard, lead editor on the project, answered, along with Editor Jim McClure and Assistant Managing Editor/Visuals Brad Jennings: (more…)

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