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Posts Tagged ‘New Haven Register’

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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Brian Charles

Brian Charles

I am pleased to announce that Brian Charles will be joining me at LSU later this month as a Student Media adviser.

I think I first met Brian in 2013, when I was visiting the Pasadena Star-News for the opening of its “News Lounge,” a place in downtown Pasadena where the public would be welcome to come for events, using computers, accessing archives, etc. I was in charge of community engagement for Digital First Media, the parent company of the Star-News, and was chatting with an editor during the event, which attracted local dignitaries and residents. The editor pointed out that Brian was chatting amiably with the police chief and a police captain. What was remarkable, he said, was that Brian had been providing relentless coverage of various police department issues in the wake of an officer’s shooting of an unarmed man (this was a year-plus before Ferguson). I already was aware of his police coverage, but the scene across the room told me a lot about Brian: Not only is he an outstanding journalist, but he earns respect, even in difficult and potentially contentious situations.

I ran the DFM editorial awards program and a few weeks later, I got to hear judges discuss and praise Brian’s work when they chose him as our Journalist of the Year for mid-sized daily newsrooms.

After excelling for DFM in California, he joined the New Haven Register, where he developed a poverty beat. I spent several weeks in New Haven last year during Project Unbolt, and had several discussions with Brian about his work and more broadly about journalism and the changes that were happening. My admiration for him grew with each conversation.

I was pleased when he applied to be an adviser. On his visit to campus last week for an interview, I saw another conversation that said a lot about Brian and why I think he’s a good fit for this job. I had him scheduled to meet with student leaders of our various media operations from 2 to 3 p.m. Then he had a free hour to check email, call home or catch his breath during a long day of interviews. I broke into the student discussion at 3, saying they didn’t have to cut it off right then, but this was Brian’s free hour if he wanted. The discussion was still going on when the people scheduled for 4 p.m. arrived, and they just joined the discussion. At 5, I finally cut the discussion off, with some of the students who had arrived at 2 still discussing issues with Brian.

I caught only slices of the discussion, but from what I heard (and from the writing on the whiteboard in the conference room), I could tell that they were discussing the important challenges facing our Student Media operation. While most response to Brian’s interview last week was strongly positive, the critical remarks I received indicated he was already starting the difficult conversations we need to have to lead the students through the changes that lie ahead. I’ve long argued that journalists and media leaders need to embrace discomfort to innovate successfully.

Beyond his range of journalism skills, data analysis experience and digital skills, I’m glad to be adding Brian’s conversational skills. I want a teacher who will help me lead our students in some important and difficult conversations about changes we need to make in student media to pursue a prosperous future.

I’ve admired Brian’s work as a journalist since before I met him. I enjoyed working with him as a colleague in DFM newsrooms. I look forward to working together with him as we lead LSU Student Media.

Other Student Media leadership notes

Tad Odell, an instructor in the Manship School of Mass Communication and head of our journalism area, has agreed to take on a part-time role advising student media as well. I’ve enjoyed working with Tad the past year as we’ve been colleagues on the Manship faculty. He was one of the colleagues who pitched in earlier this year when chemotherapy interfered with my teaching duties, for which I’m deeply grateful. I look forward to working more closely with Tad.

We hope to fill out our Student Media staff soon by hiring someone to lead our student advertising team. If you are (or know) an outstanding advertising professional with strong leadership skills, please check our listing for the position and get in touch with me right away.

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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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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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Project Unbolt logoFrom the outset of Project Unbolt, a key goal was to produce a manual for other newsrooms to follow.

As I prepare to leave Digital First Media (tomorrow will be my last day), here is that manual, my recommendations for newsrooms to unbolt from the processes and culture of print. Our work on the project has not been as extensive as I had hoped, but I think we have produced a valid plan for accelerating the digital transformation of newsrooms. I hope my colleagues will continue the work and continue blogging about it.

Thanks to the editors and staffs of the four pilot newsrooms of Project Unbolt: the New Haven Register, Berkshire Eagle, News-Herald and El Paso Times. I applaud their willingness to change and experiment during a time of upheaval in our company and the industry.

Most of the manual is in earlier blog posts published here and elsewhere during the project. This post will summarize the important steps you need to take to transform your newsroom, with links to posts that elaborate on each of those points (some links appearing more than once because they relate to multiple points): (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoProject Unbolt is not about reorganizing your newsroom.

You may reorganize pieces or all of your newsroom in doing the work of Project Unbolt, but that is not the goal. We want to change how your newsroom works, not the org chart. Action changes newsrooms, not structure.

I’m not saying that structure is unimportant. But changes in structure should support your changes in what you do. They won’t drive the changes in how you work. I’ve been through too many newsroom reorganizations that accomplished nothing and I’ve worked for too many bosses (at the editor level and the CEO/publisher level) who got bogged down in pursuing organizational change without actually accomplishing change.

Some examples of how organizational change works effectively: (more…)

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Continuing my series of posts on live coverage, Breaking News Editor Tom Cleary explains how Digital First Media’s Connecticut breaking news team works. Newsrooms and clusters of newsrooms pursuing Project Unbolt need to cover breaking news live and should consider forming a breaking news team.  

Tom Cleary, photo linked from Connecticut Newsroom blog

In early February, just as Project Unbolt was getting underway at the New Haven Register, the DFM Connecticut breaking news and digital staff was reorganized. The breaking news team was expanded and a team of web producers was created, splitting the duties that were once carried out by one team. The reorganization was done to improve breaking news reporting and web production and also to allow town reporters to focus more on enterprise reporting.

The breaking news reporting team includes an editor, assistant editor and five reporters (three in New Haven, one in Torrington and one in Middletown). The team is tasked with covering statewide and local breaking news, freeing up town reporters that had mainly been handling those stories to work on day-to-day stories and enterprise pieces.

Here are a few examples of stories the breaking news team has covered, or helped with the coverage of, since it was revamped: (more…)

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