Monday, October 28, 2013

New Website Makes a Splash in New Orleans

The Orion's new website took second place in the best-of-show competition in its circulation category this weekend at the CMA/ACP national convention in New Orleans. That's two places better than it did last spring at the midwinter convention in San Francisco.

It's hard to know what contest judges considered, but I'd guess the hard news effort of is what pushed it near the top of its category. I didn't see another site in any category that presented the quantity and quality of news The Orion does.

First place went to The Weal of SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary. Just guessing, of course, but I'd have to say the The Weal's photography is what helped it claim the top spot. The images on the site are just outstanding, and the editors clearly play to that strength by devoting the top of their home page to photos.

Here's a list of the other website winners (with links) from the convention:

Website Enrollment Level 1
Bells, Univ. of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Waco, Texas

Website Enrollment Level 2
The Banner, California Baptist Univ., Riverside, Calif.

Website Enrollment Level 4
1. The Mace & Crown, Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, Va.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moving Up With the Mobile App

In the past 30 days, news (Channel 1) and opinion (Channel 2) have been the most popular choices for visitors to The Orion mobile app site.
Keaton Bass, Quinn Western and I got an update Thursday from iCampusTimes CEO Tim Roberts about new features coming to The Orion's mobile app.

We learned that users will soon be able to call up a campus map on their phone, redeem digital coupons with the swipe of a finger and get push notices for breaking news, among other services. Students who click on an ad inside the app will be able to see an advertiser's website and even call the business with a single finger tap!

I can't help it: I get excited when I see the possibilities of mobile for the paper. More and more of the audience for news and information is headed for phones and tablets, and The Orion is in the vanguard of college newspapers making the transition.

Slightly more than 1,500 people have downloaded the app since its launch last year, about 500 in the past two months thanks in large part to the paper's PR team of Rachael DiCicco, Nabila Larohl, Amanda Locke and Megan Vanderford. They're hoping their latest promotion -- a raffle for a free iPad -- will push the download number over 3,000 yet this semester.

As the app audience grows, the ad staff will be able to add dollars from mobile ad sales to the revenue that comes now from selling ads in the paper-and-ink Orion. That will help make the paper greener in two ways: improve its financial bottom line and allow it to print fewer physical papers in the future.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Top Tips for (and from) Investigative Journalists

This collection of tips from investigative reporters was put together by the IACC Young Journalists Initiative and reported by the blog. My favorite quotation: "When you meet people, you've got to say 'Why is this lying bastard lying to me?'"

A Look at the Numbers

Other-than-Wednesday posting by The Orion staff appears to be paying off.

Web analytics for the past week show the number of visitors to the site and how much they're viewing while there is becoming more consistent from day to day instead of simply spiking on Wednesdays. Since Monday, just over 1,000 individuals visited each day and viewed 11,000 pages daily. Wednesday (the day the paper is published and many stories appear on the site), the numbers were 1,249 visitors and 12,354 pages. A week ago, the same numbers fell off fast on Thursday and stayed about 33 percent lower through the weekend.

What's going on?

My best guess is consistent uploads from the video team, blogs from the opinion staff, and non-Wednesday posts from features and sports are getting audience members to check back more often and stick around when they do.

That people turn to when there's breaking news is evident by looking at the same numbers from Sept. 23-25, when Chico State nursing student Kristina Chesterman was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Unique visitors on those days were 2,203, 2,918 (a Wednesday) and 2,591. Page views for the same days were 14,423, 19,288 and 19,005. Ernesto Rivera, who was assigned to the story, did a good job of posting updates on those days, so visitors were able to keep up with the news. 

I'll keep watching the numbers roller-coster for you as the semester goes on.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's Wrong With These Pictures?

Tuesday morning, the lead story on is a story posted Friday about a meeting that happened five days earlier.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, the home page looks much the same, though a new video has been posted and the teases at the top of the page have all been updated. The 5 p.m. deadline for sending the physical paper to the printer occurred three hours before this screenshot was taken.

At 9:45 p.m., the main news section of the home page has been updated with five new stories.

By 6 a.m. Wednesday, the trans-
formation is complete. The print edition of The Orion is now available on its website.

What's wrong with these pictures?

Hint: If the new Camayak content management system is being used properly, this sequence of events should be impossible.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What To Do With Liars and Cheats?

Dan Reimold, who writes the blog College Media Matters, has a disturbing post on the site about how the Daily O'Collegian at Oklahoma dealt with a reporter who invented sources and quotations for her stories. It raises important and uncomfortable questions for all college papers.

After investigating the incident, Reimold writers, the paper:
• fired the writer
• instituted a policy of requiring a source list, with contact information, from reporters for every story, and
• ran a letter to readers explaining the incident.

What it did NOT do is name the reporter. Reimold asks his readers what they think of that decision and posts some of the responses.

Two threads emerge:
• A student paper is a learning experience and students will make mistakes, so don't reveal the name and effectively (in the digital age) end the person's career before it starts.
• Treat this student the same way the paper treats students who do crimes (their names appear in the police blotter) or student governors who do stupid things.

Even more disturbing to me is the list of five other stories about plagiarism and other journalistic mortal sins that appears at the bottom of the post.

So, what do you think? Did the O'Collegian editors do the right thing? What should The Orion's policy be?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Long-long-form journalism

I'm not quite done reading all of the amazing package put together by the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier this past Sunday, which filled the paper's A section with an uber-in-depth look into drinking at Purdue University. I will go back and finish, though. It's what long-form journalism should be and what more papers should be attempting.

The story was featured in the Society for News Design's Sunday Editions feature for Oct. 6. Designer David Leonard wrote:

"From the night of Thursday, Sept. 26, through the morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 29 — homecoming weekend, when Purdue played host to Northern Illinois — a team of 20 Journal & Courier reporters and photographers fanned out across campus and adjacent West Lafayette neighborhoods to document what a typical drunken weekend looks like.

"We rode with police, visited bars, tailgated with alumni. We walked into house parties, fraternities and sororities, stood watch with homeowners, sat down with municipal and university officials. We talked with the family members of students who have died in alcohol-related tragedies.

"What we found was a community grappling with a culture of drinking that feels like everyone’s responsibility but lies beyond anyone’s control.”

You should read it, too!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hearst Contest Coming Up

It's time to take a look at the work you've been doing and send the best to the annual Hearst Journalism Awards Program. This is a national competition for college journalists with generous prizes.

See me for more details.

2013 – 2014

Writing Competitions
Feature Writing  due Tuesday, October 29
Enterprise Reporting  due  Tuesday, December 10
Sport Writing  due Tuesday, February 4
Personality/Profile  due Tuesday, March 4
Breaking News  due Tuesday, April 1

Photo Competitions
Photo One: News and Features  due Tuesday, November 5
Photo Two - Picture Story/Series due Tuesday, February 25

Radio and TV Competitions
Radio - News and Features  due Tuesday, November 12
TV – Features  due Tuesday, November 12
TV – News  due Tuesday, February 11

Multimedia Competitions
Features  due Tuesday, December 3
News  due Tuesday, January 28
Enterprise  due Tuesday, February 18
Team Reporting - News  due Tuesday, April 8

National  Championship, Washington, DC
June 2 - 6, 2014
Competition entries are submitted by uploading entry materials to the Hearst Online Application form: (except for the photo competitions, which are done via Photo Shelter – instructions will be emailed).
Login codes will be provided by the program office and will be sent in mid-October.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Most Viewed Pages on

Here are the website pages (other than the home page) that attracted the highest number of views in September:
1. The opinion blogs - 4,581 visits
2. Update: Student struck in hit-and-run has died (Ernesto Rivera) - 2,609 visits
3. Student in critical condition after alleged hit-and-run (Ernesto Rivera) - 2,137 visits
4. The news section - 1,348 visits
5. The sports section - 1,090 visits

The home page, according to BlueHost analytics, had 31,170 visits from Sept. 12 to Sept. 30, the period the new website has been tracking visitors.

The external websites that sent the most traffic to in the same few weeks were:
• Facebook mobile
• Facebook
Equestria Daily (a My Little Pony fansite)
• The Chico State website

Tips for Getting Engaged

Bryan Murley, who writes the Innovation in College Media blog, posted a piece this morning about Dunbar's number, a way of gauging how well a media outlet is engaging its audience. Here's a quote:

Let's say you have 30 staffers on your newspaper at a campus of 10,000 students. Between them, those staffers likely “know” at most 4,500 people (assuming there is some overlap because they know each other). That leaves at least 5,500 students that they don’t know, and the potential that over half of your campus has no social connection to your media outlet.

The key to increasing relevance, then, is to find a way to get those people into your coverage, so they feel a sense of belonging.

He follows with several great tips about how a college paper can do a better job with engagement.

I think this is must reading for The Orion and other college papers. Take a look and then offer comments below.