Archives for posts with tag: social media

My second session of the day was titled “Twitter for Editors.” The session itself turned out to be a pretty straightforward introduction to Twitter, but I was able to jump into the Q&A afterward to share with people some of the things we’re doing at the Missourian. One question was: “What do we stop doing to make time for tweeting?”

That’s a question of priorities, of course. Those of you who’ve had been in editing class with me will be familiar with the concept of editing triage; some things are more important than others, and you usually can’t do everything. And yes, I’d put tweeting well down the list of a copy editor’s priorities (though not the news organization’s). But I jumped in to make this point: We’ve got to make copy editors more valuable. Clearly the top editors at many news organizations don’t value what we do enough, and so a lot of copy editors are losing their jobs. Taking on the task of tweeting for your news organization makes your job bigger, in a way that is likely to show results that will impress those same editors. We know at the Missourian that the more we tweet, the more we generate traffic to the website. Our analytics confirm that Twitter.com and direct referral (largely links via Twitter apps, we’ve surmised) are increasingly important contributors to our traffic.

After the session, Henry Fuhrmann, the assistant managing editor in charge of copy desks at the Los Angeles Times, introduced himself to me. He said copy editors at the Times have taken on the task of tweeting after hours, seeing it as an important contribution to the newspaper’s audience efforts and a natural extension of what copy editors already do. The Missourian, which places primary responsibility for tweeting on its copy desk, is on the right track, I think. And clearly, copy editors, learning to tweet well is a skill you can sell to desk chiefs.

(This is also posted on the Reynolds Journalism Institute blog)

The Missourian is wrapping up a semester-long experiment designed to improve the focus of our website production and change the definition of a newspaper copy editor.

The assessment: It works. The changes could be implemented in other newsrooms – but only if senior and assigning editors let go of the print control.

Like many newspapers, we’ve called ourselves “Web first” for a long time, but we knew we weren’t really when it came to editing. The Missourian’s production rolled along the factory assembling line from mid-afternoon to midnight. Meanwhile, the website came together sort of auto-magically, requiring minimal effort on the part of copy editors to select a fresh set of stories to highlight on the home page periodically.

We decided we needed a radical change.

In August, we segregated all print production processes from the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.

Most of our copy editors, most of the time, would have no involvement with the print product.

Instead, they’d become “interactive copy editors.” They would focus on getting stories to our website quickly and accurately, on finding ways to increase reader engagement with our work online, and on making sure the website is always putting its best possible foot forward. The work of a copy editor would be just beginning when an article published.

A small team of editors and designers, working separately, would manage all the details of the print edition, from story selection to final proofing, piggybacking as much as possible on the work of the interactive copy desk. They – not the managing editor, metro editor or senior news editor – would effectively “own” the print edition.

It has gone surprisingly well. We succeeded in resetting the rhythm of the whole newsroom.

We’re no longer focused on the paper tomorrow — the print team worries about that for all of us.

Instead we’re occupying news editors and copy editors with the work of producing the website 18 hours a day every weekday.

We actually made the mistake of continuing to staff the desk lightly on Friday afternoons and not at all on Friday evenings — as we have since the Missourian ended its Saturday print edition — but soon realized that Fridays had become just like any other weekday — busier than most, actually. We had to adjust.

Interactive copy editors are in charge of our social networks. They regularly use Twitter and Facebook. But we can be more creative and proactive in soliciting reader input for potential stories, rather than just the ones we’ve already posted.

Interactive copy editors also monitor the comment boards at the end of every article. They take down comments that violate our policies, and they jump in when the conversation demands a Missourian response. We think copy editors could do more in mediating conflicts among commenters and soliciting comments on stories that ought to be sparking them but aren’t.

We need to be better, too, at figuring out how to create energy and engagement on the website when the news by itself just isn’t doing it. All these are on our list for tackling in earnest in the spring.

The biggest drawback to the experiment has been the print experience of headline writing for our student copy editors. While they still do an evening print shift every three or four weeks, it’s not enough experience, especially when it comes to headline writing. Writing headlines for print — in a space strictly prescribed — is a skill that only comes with intense practice. It makes them better at writing headlines for the website. We’ll retool for spring to rotate more copy editors into print shifts and, on those shifts, to increase their focus on perfecting their headlines.

However, the benefits of our experiment, which we dubbed The Transition, have far outweighed the drawbacks.

Our website has improved tremendously and, with our interactively focused copy desk, we see room for much more. Meanwhile, our designated print team has done a great job maintaining the print edition. Their exclusive focus on print has even improved the product in some ways. (See print editor Jake Sherlock’s separate report on that aspect of The Transition.) We’ll try to perfect the experiment in the spring. Watch our Transition blog (transition.columbiamissourian.com) for regular updates about what we’re doing on the interactive copy desk and in other aspects of the Missourian newsroom.

General background
Graduate students in the Advanced Reporting course in S2010 proposed revisions to the long-standing personal/political and business conflicts policies. Editors acknowledged the need for change, though differed on some specifics. The proposed revisions in business conflicts and the addition of a section addressing social media were the subject of an evening conversation at the Reynolds Journalism Institute co-sponsored by the MU chapter of SPJ as well as discussions at newsroom meetings, this semester’s journalism capstone class, newsroom budget meetings, beat meetings and informal exchanges in and outside of the newsroom.

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Are we entitled to information? Katy Bergen says so. The following is from the advanced reporting blog, and I wanted to share it here:

I, Katy Bergen, as a member of Generation Y, Generation Millenial, Generation Next (Call it what you will) have grown up with the idea that I am entitled to information. This entitlement began at birth and will cease when I die. It exists because I exist and because I exist in America.

This is the generation that has taken “public information” to a whole new level, blurred the lines between the personal and the public and changed communication (and is pegged to continue to change it). Our list of entitlement can get rather long, but after all we’ve created a world where we are:

  • entitled to your relationship status, your political views, photo montages of your life.
  • entitled to see what our History of Jackson classmate is tweeting. Or Anderson Cooper. Or Taylor Swift.
  • entitled to go to a library and not be denied any form of information that we wish to possess.
  • entitled to create our own website or blog, to share information we deem important.
  • entitled to the free flow of information, formerly known as journalism. It is free because it is important, because, ideally, it is the truth and because information is power that long ago our country decided everyone should embody. Journalism doesn’t single out people who are avidly interested in the news or the people that can afford its price. It doesn’t shut out the half-interested, the infrequent visitor, the fair-weather fan. It doesn’t shut out my swim club teammate who would never pay $96 to read the newspaper. Or the household that would, but can’t afford it anyway.

I don’t see a world where people pay to read their news on a computer. I don’t think my generation would stand for that.

Rob Weir passed this along. It’s a way for newspapers to make money by charging businesses to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts.

In his blog, Mark Coddington describes it this way:

Here’s how it works: Companies pay for The Independent’s web editor to set up their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, with synchronized posts between the two. Their posts are then aggregated  and displayed with a Twitter lists widget on The Independent’s homepage (about midway down) and on a dedicated giNetwork page. The deal includes on-demand social media consulting during business hours and a regular email newsletter with tips and success stories.

One of the earliest Web adopters in newspapers was Rob Curley. I remember visiting him in ‘02 when he was at Wichita. His department was making money, but it wasn’t from advertising revenue. The real profits came from Web development.

Leveraging our expertise is akin to building ads for clients. They get way more in terms of service. The difference, of course, is that the Independent is charging for the extra.