Archives for posts with tag: the hub

During the arguably historic snowstorm earlier this month, many of the students and faculty who normally work on the Missourian’s interactive copy desk were unable to leave their homes. For those of us working primarily on the website, that’s not a huge problem. Our Web content management system lives online. Any of us can log into it from anywhere, as long we have Internet access. And because we’re Web-first, we edit almost all our content using this system, rather than our print CMS, which is only a part of the process after the fact for our small team of print designers and editors.

So working from home is no problem. But communicating with half a dozen people in half a dozen places? That’s harder. How do we efficiently let everyone know what needs doing and who should do it?

The impromptu solution we came up with was to launch a group chat within Gmail. Most of our students use Gmail for their personal e-mail, and even those who don’t will open Gmail accounts in order to get access to Google Docs and Google Analytics, two services we make extensive use of at the Missourian. While Skype or AIM might have been more reliable and elegant, Gmail Chat was the service we could get students and faculty most easily.

The chat function lives in the left-hand sidebar of Gmail:

The hardest part is inviting each new person to chat with you, and that’s not really hard. You simply type each invitee’s Gmail address in the invitation window. Once one person has accepted, you can invite that person to chat. Then, you invite each new person from the existing chat window, creating a group chat, where everyone can see everything that is being said.

It worked really well. We looped in the interactive copy desk, our print team and the management hub. I was the on-duty news editor working from home the first night of the storm, and I found myself completely looped in to what was going on. The next day, I was able to get to work, but many of us still couldn’t, so we fired up the chat again. And we did it again on the third day, even though most of us had made it in to the newsroom by that time. A surprising aspect of the chat was this: It helped those of us in the office communicate better with each other. It’s easy to make a quick announcement to everyone (“Hey, don’t forget to use the #comosnow hashtag!”) without having to command their immediate attention or contribute to the avalanche of e-mail.

So a question for us has become: Should the group chat become a permanent feature of work on the interactive copy desk and the management hub? I’m thinking about it. Missourian folk, what do you think?

(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.

Hey all. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mary Daly, your Missourian transition reporter/observer/analyst (haven’t quite come up with a title yet). While working as a reporter and page designer, I’ll also be monitoring the progress of the transition, talking to and shadowing people in all the different departments about their ideas and reporting my findings through this blog each week and meetings every few weeks, where we can all get together to discuss.

Week one got us off to a successful start. I’ve heard a lot of compliments about the new newsroom setup, both from returning staff members and new ones. The hub desk seems to be a hit. It’s definitely been beneficial to have all the people who help facilitate decision in one place, and from the reporter’s viewpoint, new students seemed to know right away that was the place to go to find an ACE or editor.

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Hi, all. If you’ve been in the newsroom today you probably noticed we moved desks and computers arund today. If you haven’t, stop in and tell me what you think. A few things to note:

1. We may add some more computers to the print area. I think we were shooting for 8, but I think I included the computer we use for marrying pages in that count by mistake. The imaging process may make a difference on this; scroll down for more.

2. I’ll probably move a few computers around tomorrow so we can have as many as possible of the larger iMacs at the hub desk.

3. For images, I’m building basically three:

  • Newsroom: has browsers, Office, Cyberduck, various codecs and players, MPEG Streamclip, VLC, Handbrake, and CS5.
  • Photo: Newsroom + Photo Mechanic + Photoshop custom actions
  • Print: Newsroom but with CS2 instead of CS5, and PlanSystem.

That obviously limits the number of print stations we can use. (I’d rather have CS5 all the way across, but our publishing company’s software is not compatible with the type of PDF that CS5 generates.)

4. The cables run across the floor are temporary in some cases (those near the print pod) and permanent in others (those near the hub desk and ICE desk). We will create more permanent trip strips there so they don’t stay taped down.

5. We should be done with images by the end of the day tomorrow, and will use next week to test them and then image computers.

Any questions, let me know. It’s been a long day and I feel like I’m forgetting something, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Hi, all. A quick update on the moving schedule for the newsroom:

1. This morning, Robyn and I moved the graphics computers out of the graphics lab, and the multimedia computers into the multimedia (nee graphics) lab. There’s one more multimedia computer coming back from TigerTech. We also moved the assorted equipment we found in the graphics pod back there (hard drives, etc)

2. Moving the sandwich counter/convergence space is going to take a bit longer than I originally thought, because of the Modbook and assorted equipment attached to that. Derrick Fogle from ASC is coming over later this afternoon to go over what that entails.

3. We’re going to move print computers into the print area starting early Thursday. Should be done in a couple hours.

4. I also put in a request to Telecom for the cabling we need to be able to run the print pod of computers. Until then, we’ll need to run cable across the floor.

5. Once the sandwich counter is moved (Thursday) we can start creating “The Hub.”

6. More TK