Friday, January 18, 2013

Prescriptions for The Orion: Features

This week I'm writing prescriptions for a better Orion. Today: Features.

Rx1: Write more stories about people
Some of the most interesting stories in the section fall semester were people features, which readers like and which story subjects like to post on their bulletin boards and refrigerator doors for the world to see. The hard part is finding interesting people to profile. A few ideas:
• Jimmy Breslin, a columnist for several New York papers, used to write off the news, which meant he checked the daily runsheet of story assignments and then went to find the people behind the news. His column about the men who dug John F. Kennedy’s grave became a classic.
• People readers see every day on campus or downtown are often great subjects. No one else has time to stop and talk to them, and often they have fascinating backgrounds. Ask Ben Mullin about his sign-twirler story. Others: The guy who runs the hot dog truck near Bidwell Mansion (how did he start doing that?) or the families that operate the taco trucks around town.
• How about people you’d just like to meet? Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada brewing? Robin Hearne, the female chief of University Police? The chef of a local fine-dining restaurant?
These stories can also result in prize-winning environmental portraits for the staff photographers.  

Rx2: Own arts and entertainment coverage
The Chico News & Review should NOT be the go-to source of who’s playing and what’s showing in Chico. The Orion should be, at least for its primary audience of Chico State students. Who knows better than you what deserves to be hot and who deserves to be covered? Three steps to own A&E coverage:
  • Make it someone’s job to compile the most comprehensive, most useful calendar of performances in Chico and update it daily. Feature it on home page.
  • Create a blog or blogs that report what’s happening in the local arts, music and theater communities. Use lots of names and highlight them in boldface type. Take mugshots of artists, promoters, musicians, etc., to accompany the weekly blog posts. Tie the posts to the calendar with links and vice versa.
  • Write reviews of concerts, plays and art shows immediately after they open (art shows) or end (concerts and plays) and post them within hours to Promote the stories on Twitter (“We’ll be reviewing tonight’s French Montana concert at The Senator. Catch it after the show at ...”) and Facebook (link to the review as soon as it’s posted). Invite readers to supply their own mini-reviews as comments on the website.

Rx3: Develop more video features
The how-to cooking segments Annie Page successfully attempted fall semester are a natural for the Web. Think about other subjects that lend themselves to video storytelling: 15-second video clips of bands that are playing in town this week, subject-only interviews (interviewer edited out) with the lead in a university theater play, how-to play a new indoor or outdoor game (remember spikeball?).

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