Thursday, December 6, 2012

Still more ideas for daily digital coverage

Here are a few more ideas for keeping and the new Orion app fresh:

Run beats. One of the hardest parts about making the transition from weekly to daily is coming up with enough of the right kind of story ideas. A weekly schedule tends to focus writers and editors on "the big story," something worth a week of reporting, writing and editing. The paper still needs those for the Wednesday paper, but it also needs many shorter, more timely stories for the Web. Talking to people in your coverage community is where to find those stories, and running a beat is where to find those people. Everyone on The Orion should be running a beat at least weekly; newsy beats (like cops and courts) should be run more often.  Sports, features and even opinion staffers should also have beat responsibilities so the paper can cast the widest possible idea net.

Plan for daily. Sections teams usually sit down once a week to talk over story ideas and select the best for the next issue of the newspaper. That's a sure path to having the entire content of the paper ready on Sundays and Tuesdays, the usual print deadlines, and lots of content being shoveled onto the website and app once a week. Instead, each section should be planning to produce (at least) one story each day. When things actually happen will take care of some of the scheduling, but section editors need to make it their business to have something ready every day of the week, even if nothing is breaking.

Keep a tickler file. The best lesson I learned as a TV assignment editor was to keep (in the era before computers) a file drawer containing 31 numbered folders for each day of the month. When I sorted news releases, took phone calls and browsed the local papers, I filed each release, scribbled note and news clipping in the folder for the appropriate date. Before I filled out the assignment board each morning, I would pull the folder for that day to check on story possibilities. The Orion managers should be doing the same, using the same pre-digital system I had or one of the hundreds of calendars available for their phone or desktop.

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