Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What's a runsheet?

One great way to make sure everyone is on the same page in a newsroom staffed with dozens of people is with a runsheet.

A million years ago, when I was a section editor at the Minnesota Daily, the runsheet was a six-foot page of newsprint tacked up in the middle of the newsroom. It listed every story assigned to every reporter, and everyone was welcome to scribble suggestions for coverage, photos and even editorial topics next to the entries.

Our runsheet at the St. Paul Pioneer Press when I edited there was six or seven single-spaced legal-sized sheets with the stories planned for that day, the line-up for that Sunday's paper and stories planned for the future. Every editor carried it into the 3 o'clock news meeting, where editors pitched their stories for 1A.

Both had the advantage of keeping everyone on the staff informed about what the paper was about to commit to print. Because they were shared documents, anyone on the staff could go to a reporter or editor with suggestions for making our coverage better. Related stories, sidebars and other extras were often the result.

Fast forward to the digital age and GoogleDocs. These days, a newsroom runsheet can be a totally interactive Google document and even include links to related stories, similar stories published elsewhere and anything else on the web (or another GoogleDoc) that would help the reporting.

The ideal person to manage The Orion runsheet is the managing editor, who is already playing air traffic controller in the newsroom by assigning stories each morning for that day's coverage. But the interactivity of GoogleDocs allows anyone on the staff to add story suggestions, making the runsheet a living document. This makes it possible for the online editors to see what's upcoming so they can plan website presentation, the designers can start thinking about elements for a package and everyone can offer suggestions to make the paper, the website and The Orion's social-media effort more compelling and more complete.

The other great thing about using a GoogleDoc is that a new one doesn't have to be typed up, printed and physically shared every day. Once a Google runsheet is created, old stories can be deleted and new ones added, all on a document that was shared once at the beginning of the semester.

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