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.

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