Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Orion's biggest weakness exposed

One of the dangers of adding a new publishing platform (such as the new Orion smartphone app) is that it exposes problems that otherwise might be hidden.

The Orion's biggest weakness is its seemingly unalterable affection for being a weekly newspaper.

A quick browse through the app's home page tiles shows just how weekly the paper remains. Here are the publishing dates of the most recent stories, by section, this morning (Tuesday, Dec. 4):

News - Monday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m.
Opinion - Monday, Dec. 3, 7 a.m. (an article originally published in The Orion Nov. 28)
Sports - Monday, Dec. 3, 9:48 p.m.
Arts - Friday, Nov. 16, 2:47 p.m.
Features - Sunday, Dec. 2, 3:15 p.m. (a review of a play performed Thursday, Nov. 29)
Police Blotter - Tuesday, Nov. 27, 9:03 p.m. (for reports filed Nov. 22-26)
Daily Webcast - Sunday, Dec. 2 to YouTube (today's webcast not yet posted, even though it's usually written to be viewed first thing in the morning).
Weather - Today, 10:47 a.m.

Not very impressive for what one candidate for editor-in-chief termed "an online news service" and the current EIC expects to be the equivalent of a daily newspaper. It's even less impressive when you look closer at the posts and see:
• the sports story published last night is actually a digest of reports from games played Friday and Saturday
• the news story was the only one posted Monday and just one more was posted Sunday
• the one up-to-date section was Weather, which isn't staff generated.

So, how to fix it?

How about a news-flow process that looks like this:

Event or news happens > reporter or writer tweets what's known immediately > reporter files continuous Twitter updates, photographer or reporter tweets photos or video > when news or event concludes, reporter writes three-paragraph, 100-word hard-news brief  > editors post brief with photos or video > reviewer writes review within hours of performance's conclusion >  editor posts finished review with photos or video to the website. Time elapsed: minutes to a few hours. > Reporter continues to report story and files longer, more detailed version in the next 24 hours > story is posted to the web and Facebook > story package with other storytelling elements is prepared for the print version of the newspaper > broader, deeper explanatory story is published in The Orion on Wednesday.

This isn't easy, but it is totally necessary if The Orion is going to make the transition from weekly newspaper to online news service.

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