Archives for posts with tag: engagement

In August, I wrote to Missourian readers about what I hoped my new community outreach team would do. Now I’d like to share some of what we’re doing day to day.

Here’s a running list of the tasks we’re assigned, beginning with some routine ones and leading up to some exciting experiments. Many of these come straight out of the community engagement discussion guide I published as part of my fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Many are also inspired by or directly borrowed from what I learned through a series of interviews.

Daily and weekly newsroom duties

  • Monitor and, when appropriate, participate in comments on
  • Take charge of and strategize for the Missourian’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Monitor email that comes to the newsroom for story ideas and for posts for our citizen journalism site, MyMissourian.
  • Attend daily news meetings at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., as well as individual beat meetings, looking for ways we can contribute.
  • Review the daily news budget for stories that would benefit from discussion about audience, in terms of collaboration, online conversation, comments, etc. — or in terms of finding the right audience and taking the content to them. Suggest to the reporters and editors how the community might help us report or share the news.
  • When appropriate, tweet out reports after the news meetings of what our staff is working on.
  • Search social media for what people are talking about. Report back about what you’re hearing. Monitor Google alerts and Twitter searches for the newsroom, and see if any beats or topics would benefit from having new ones set up.
  • Be ready for breaking news. Be prepared to help find sources, solicit community content, live-blog and use social media to report to the community, hand out fliers door to door — whatever makes sense for the situation.
  • Look for chances to share the story behind the story, by doing a podcast, Q&A or video interview with the journalists.
  • Look for archive coverage or CoMoYouKnow posts that could be relevant to users today. Consider adding them to our coverage online and sharing them on social platforms.
  • Look for ways that content being produced today will be relevant or could be repacked in the future, and for ways that content in our archives might be useful today.
  • Leave the newsroom. Find a place to listen, and report back about what you’re hearing.
  • Compile weekly analytics reports for the Missourian. Share highlights at a news meeting.
  • Aggregate the best of Missourian comments, for Web once a week and print twice a week.
  • Look for opportunities to create Twitter lists to help people follow or digest the news.
  • Look through plans for event coverage for opportunities for live blogs or live chats.

Longer-term project ideas

  • Assess whether the Missourian should be offering an email subscription or text message service.
  • Update and improve our about page, contact us page and staff bio pages.
  • Craft or update newsroom policies for social media and for contributing to comments.
  • Come up with new ways to share analytics information, both internally and with our users.
  • Make a list of all the ways users can get in touch with the newsroom and individual journalists — all of them, from online comments to letters to stopping journalists on the street. Figure out which ones we want to encourage, and turn that into a list for publication and for internal use.
  • Make a list, with descriptions, of campus and city media, blogs and other information sources, and figure out how to make that a community resource.
  • Determine if there’s a Columbia or Mizzou network of people on social media sites such as YouTube, Quora, Google+ and LinkedIn. See if there’s a way to share that information with our users.
  • Create a Facebook welcome page. Assess what we’re learning and could be learning from Facebook Insights (the analytics tool).
  • Come up with a plan for introducing users to each other. Should we feature a Facebook fan, Twitter follower, frequent commenter, blogger, etc., each week?
  • Think about what we’d like to enlist our community to help us cover, from sharing photos of JV basketball games to live blogging community meetings.
  • Brainstorm how we could bring more users into the newsroom — for budget meetings, story help and special events.
  • Brainstorm how we could use our photo archives to interact with the community.
  • Brainstorm how we could share information about Columbia’s history or Mizzou’s history. Could we do an oral history project? Or ask people to share memories about a specific time, place or event?
  • Figure out how the Missourian could take news tips and photos via text message — and promote that.
  • Consider creating a Twitter account just to retweet interesting things from campus — or the whole city.
  • Consider how we could steal an idea from video stores or bookstores and create a “staff picks” or “what we’re reading” section.
  • Brainstorm ways to make our staff of editors more accessible to the community. Stories? Videos? A Facebook album?
  • Brainstorm ways the Missourian could be using check-in platforms like Foursquare and Gowalla to interact with the community and add a location-based element to our information.

I know we won’t get to all of this, and I truly hope it’s just the beginning of our experiment.

What are we missing?

This post was published first at

I have a lot to write and say about the Missourian’s 3-week-old community outreach team, and how we’re hoping to expand the boundaries of traditional definitions of journalism and keep the focus of the Columbia Missourian squarely on the community it serves.

Today, I’ll take just a few minutes to share the project that I’m most excited about to date.

In assessing our newsroom’s coverage plans for the 9/11 anniversary, we decided we wanted to stay focused on real people and real conversations. A couple of students wanted to put together tips for parents on how to talk to young children about 9/11, during a weekend when scary images and stories would be hard to avoid. So Lexa Deckert and Charesse James did the interviews and wrote a story. I think it’s pretty good.

And then we turned the information into a two-page handout (downloadable on the left side of the story, and right here) and distributed it around town. We handed out 800 copies, at the public library, day care centers, soccer games, popular kid spots and coffee shops.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The handout has been received as it was intended — as a public service. One person asked if we wanted to charge her to leave the flyers fliers. A few asked if it would be OK to make more copies if they ran out, or if we could email a digital version. A few others expressed surprise and asked if this was the kind of thing the Missourian often did. One community center said they weren’t allowed to post anything not provided by the city. But in general, people are taking them and thanking us for them.

On purpose, we did not link back to the more complete story our website. The goal is not to drive page views. It’s to provide a community service, and be seen as a community resource.

In our morning news meeting, one editor asked if we’d consider seeking sponsorship for something like this in the future. I think it’s worth talking about, as are so many angles of the project.

For now, I’m really excited that 800 pieces of paper were floating around town, with information designed to make families’ lives easier during a complex news weekend.

This came up in the design critique last week — we keep using “commentary” as a way to tag first-person stories from the football game (the story where we hung out with the cannon crew, for example). We did it again twice this week.

I realize we need to tag these stories in some way as non-traditional news content, but I’m not sure that “commentary” is the best descriptor for them. That implies criticism, and is also what we’ve been using for opinion content for quite a while. I think we’ve trained readers that commentary = opinion content.

That said, though, I’m committing the cardinal sin of being critical of something without really having a suggestion for how to fix it. Would “first person” be too literal? Is there a more fun way to do that? “Tiger Tracker” or something like that?


To the list of things Joy has suggested are at the core of interactive copy editing/web production (prediting? proditing?), I’ll add this: optimizing the home page.

Often through the day, editors should spend a minute or two staring at the home page and asking themselves: If I didn’t work here, would I be interested in any of this? Do the headlines and excerpts do the best possible job of selling these stories to me? Are the right stories featured?

Each weekday this summer, the home page received about 6,000 page views on average. That’s by far the most trafficked page on our site, and it represents a lot of opportunity to engage our community. This graph shows the fairly consistent pattern of daily home-page views for the summer.

Daily page views on the home page

However, the bounce rate from the home page — the percentage of people who visit only that page of our site — hovers around 40 percent. (The graph below shows the weekly bounce rate for the summer.) In other words, two out of every five people who visit the home page find nothing worth clicking on.

Weekly bounce rate from the home page

Is the site that dull? I’m going start with the hypothesis that it is not — that the problem is mostly that we’re not doing enough on the home page to put our best foot forward to fully engage readers in our work.

How do we do that? It’s starts with interactive copy editors and news editors critically asking the questions above. It’s getting the right stories on the home page and the best stories featured most prominently. It’s about taking as much care in optimizing the home page headlines and excerpts as we take in crafting story-level headlines optimized for search. On the home page, the optimization is not about satisfying Google’s spiders and search-engine users; it’s about satisfying our local readers. More often than not, we should be overriding the SEO headline and writing engaging, conversational headlines for the home page. That’s easily done at the layout level in the Django system.

What else does the home page need to liven it up? What routine will we work into the ICE shifts to make it happen?

As the main dayside news editor at the Missourian for the second half of the summer (and often the only person actually on duty at the desk), I’ve stayed busy with a lot of tasks besides editing stories. That’s partly because I’ve grown passionate about a more participatory style of journalism — a real engagement with readers. It’s what I’m going to be working on while a fellow at RJI next year, and I’ve been doing some experimenting this summer. I think the copy desk is a logical arm of the newsroom to practice and proselytize for engagement.

I offer up my default routine from the past several weeks, not as The Answer for what a copy desk should do, but as a starting point, for you guys to poke holes in. Here’s what I do each day. Probably each hour, actually. I just cycle through.