Saturday, November 30, 2013

An example of a digital-first approach

I've been preaching for the past year about developing a digital-first consciousness at The Orion, but what does such a thing look like in practical terms?

Here's a real story (one that hasn't been covered yet by the paper) and how it might be handled. It broke at 9 a.m. Nov. 21 (a Thursday) with this news release from Chico State Public Affairs:

Judith Hennessey, most recently interim dean of the College of Business and Economics, CSU, Northridge (CSUN), has been named dean of California State University, Chico’s College of Business. 
Hennessey will start in her new position on Jan. 6, 2014. She will replace Julie Indvik, who has served as interim dean for the College of Business since August 2012.
The complete release is available on the CSU, Chico News website
The first step, according to the news diamond I described earlier on this blog, is to get the word out immediately. Best way to do that? I'd suggest Twitter (@theorion_news) and the breaking news scroll on
Chico State names new college of business dean: Judith Hennessey of CSU-Northridge. More coming at
An editor who knew the university is publishing a list of announcements every morning at 9 and was monitoring his or her email could have this Tweet and online alert posted by 9:10 at the latest.
Next step: draft. This is what most newspaper editors would call a brief. It's a 100-word-or-so who, what, where and when. The editor on duty could probably report this himself or herself by following the link to the news release and writing a traditional inverted-pyramid top. The canned quote in the news release could be picked up in a pinch, but a call to Hennessey at Northridge for an interview would be a better choice. A call to the public affairs office to secure a mugshot would be part of this process. Here's what the brief might look like:
Chico State has hired an administrator and professor of marketing at Cal State Northridge to lead its college of business, the university announced this morning.
Judith Hennessey will start her new job Jan. 6. She replaces Julie Indvik, who has served as interim dean since August 2012.
The quotation...
Assuming Hennessey doesn't pick up the phone when called, this story could be on the website with the mugshot by 10 a.m. With the canned quote, by 9:30.
Next step: article. At this point, the editors have to determine the best way to tell a more detailed story about the new dean or whether readers need more at all. It would be assigned to a reporter who would use more quotations from the interview, facts and figures about the department (students, faculty, the previous non-interim dean, etc.), a paragraph about the search (how long it took, who was on the committee, maybe add a quote from the student search-committee member) and perhaps quotations from current faculty about expectations, challenges, etc. Other angles could be considered:
• Is it significant that someone with a marketing background was chosen?
• A look at Provost Belle Wei's hiring choices since she arrived a year ago
• Hennessey belongs to the Association for Psychological Science and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. What's that about?
This seems like a logical candidate for a text story that could be written and edited in a day or less. If one of the other angles pans out, a story using that emphasis could be written for the print edition because a story focusing on the appointment would be too old by the time it could be published in print. Links to online stories about what Hennessey has done at Northridge, Wei's hires or the two associations would be included in the story. 

Intermediate step: Both stories should be promoted on The Orion Facebook page with a link to the online piece and a tease to the print edition: Who's the new face at Chico State's College of Business and Economics? 
Next step: analysis and reflection. Again, if one of the alternative angles works out or another angle can be developed, a piece for the editorial page could be assigned and written. Should marketing be one of the priorities for college deans? Is the provost on a campaign to diversify the Chico State administration?  
Then, depending on interest and angle, when the stories and analyses are published online and in the paper, Twitter and Facebook posts would invite readers to comment on the issues raised.
Keep in mind, this story might only be interesting and important enough for a brief, which could then be rewritten for the print edition of The Orion and published with the mugshot. That, and whether to keep taking the steps listed here, are decisions for the editors.
Think about how different this is from the way stories are handled how at The Orion and what needs to change to make this new approach happen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A new cast of characters for spring semester

Editor-in-Chief-to-be Katrina Cameron and the next Orion managing editor, Ernesto Rivera, have chosen their management staff for next semester. Here's the complete lineup:

Managing Editor Ernesto Rivera
EIC: Katrina Cameron
Managing Editor: Ernesto Rivera
Chief Copy Editor: John Riggin
Art Director: Liz Coffee
News Editor: Mozes Zarate
Opinion Editor: Zachary Coyl
Sports Editor: Sharon Martin
Features Editor: Risa Johnson
Arts Editor: Nicole Santos
Photo Editor: Kasey Judge
Video Editor: Emily Bertolino
PR Director: Jessica Barber

If you'd like be a member of the staff, contact Katrina or Ernesto personally or fill out an Orion job application available here:

Have a safe and happy break!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What if: A dream team for The Orion

The end of the semester is just ahead and a new editorial team is in place for the next. What typically happens at The Orion is most of the talent moves into new roles on the paper and some, usually the top echelon, move on to other pursuits.

Former EIC Kacey Gardner
went to work for Chico State's
public information office
after her term as editor.
Can you imagine what the paper might be like if those top players didn't leave?

Wouldn't it be awesome (and I mean that literally) if Editor-in-Chief Ben Mullin, Managing Editor Quinn Western, Photo Editor Dan Reidel, News Editor Nick Carr and former reporter Juniper Rose, for example, rejoined the staff as writers this spring?

Can you imagine the section fronts if they were all installed as section senior writers who worked on projects, maybe one every two weeks?

How many awards would the paper win if that dream team all worked in news, writing long-form journalism and mentoring an equal number of new reporters?

This isn't just selfishness talking (selfish because I'd open up my browser to each day expecting to read something great). Think of the clips they could generate! What a portfolio they could build!

This idea is part of a larger conversation Ben and I have been having about ditching the every-semester staff shuffle in favor annual appointments for the top editors. Most college papers turn over their editorial group just once a year. That system can provide more continuity from semester to semester and helps stop the exit of top talent in the middle of the year.

In the meantime, I can dream about a dream team for The Orion.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanks for today's critique discussion

Using the Camayak calendar will help even out The Orion's copy flow.
Thanks, everyone, for the discussion at critique today about fixing the deadline and website problems at The Orion. Just to sum up:
• Everyone on the staff, from reporters to the editor-in-chief, is responsible for the newspaper's deadlines.
• Staggering deadlines so stories are coming in throughout the week is crucial to preventing a day-of-publication logjam that leads to errors, stress and missed deadlines.
• Using Camayak properly can help, and everyone should be using it.
• To have informative and appealing web and print pages, editors and reporters need to plan what they'll look like when stories are assigned. Editorial art should be part of every story discussion.
• Writers should be turning coverage into copy right away instead of waiting days to compose their first drafts. Editors should be working copy soon after it comes in, talk with reporters about revisions and publish to the website when stories are ready.
• Stories should be updated when new information or art becomes available.

I know changing the way the paper has done things in the past is hard work. I want you to know I appreciate all your efforts to make the transition from a print-centric organization to one that thinks digital first.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

Let's spend the first 15 minutes of critique on Wednesday talking about the problem with this screen-shot from The Orion mobile app and what can be done to fix it.

Hint: It's the second Tuesday night in a row experienced this phenomenon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Katrina Cameron will be The Orion EIC next semester

Katrina Cameron has been named The Orion's editor-in-chief for spring semester 2014. She and Quinn Western, the current managing editor, interviewed for the paper's top editorial position yesterday.

Katrina Cameron
Katrina has been the higher ed and health care reporter at the Chico Enterprise-Record since last summer. She was a reporter and features editor at The Orion last school year.

Her interest in working at the paper started before she ever set foot on campus.

"Leading Chico State’s nationally recognized student newspaper has been a personal dream since my stepbrother brought home a copy while visiting during his first semester of college," she wrote in her letter of application. "I was only 16 years old when I first flipped through those pages, but already I knew I would become an Orionite in the future."

Congratulations, Katrina!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Audience builds for and app

The October numbers for The Orion website and mobile app show a growing audience that spends lots of time looking at lots of content.

According to analytics gathered by the paper's web hosting service, BlueHost:
• 11,557 individuals viewed last month.
• They viewed 336,674 pages in 31,349 visits, or 10.74 pages per visit (the rate for, one of the most popular news websites in the world, is around 3.2 pages per visit, according to the BBC's own estimates).
• The number of unique visitors was slightly down from September, but visits, page views and hits were all higher.

The mobile app, according to host iCampusTimes:
• was downloaded by 465 people in October, bringing the total to a more than 1,800.
• attracted 676 individual viewers in October compared with 472 in September.
• had 2,670 total visits compared with 1,966 in September.

The most popular category on the mobile app in October was "Offers" with 1,849, probably because of the iPad giveaway contest. News was the most popular category in September with 1,048 visits, but news attracted about 200 more viewers in October, 1,246.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How the Huffington Post Does Digital

Video from the Reynolds Journalism Lab at the University of Missouri:


What mobile phone users want next

Here's part of an infographic from the InfographicList website that shows smart phone users want to be able to do more with their phones.

I'm posting because we had a conversation two weeks ago at The Orion management meeting about how advertisers just don't seem to be interested in the digital-couponing function (Offers) in the Orion mobile app. I wonder if they've seen this infographic.