I had a nice discussion with Ashiah Scharaga and Kristen Moran at The Orion managers meeting Monday that included some ideas for improving the newspaper and website. I thought I'd share them, along with a couple more ideas.
1. Fix proofreading. The system we developed at Normandale Community College really helped to clean up the print edition of the newspaper. It worked this way:
• When a page has been completely laid out in InDesign, an 11-by-17 printout is made of the page and taped to a prominent wall in the newsroom.
• Anyone on the staff can come in, take the page down and pencil-tap it. Jumps are checked, too. When the editing is finished, the page goes back on the wall with corrections indicated in the margins (with proofreaders' marks). The pencil-tappers' initials go on top of the page, indicated it's been read.
• If someone else walking by sees additional problems, more corrections can be made on the wall.
• Editors responsible for making page corrections in InDesign take the page down and insert the fixes. They're also double-checking the suggested changes for correctness. Once they're done, the page goes back on the wall with the word DONE written across the top.
• The art director or her designee takes the DONE page down, makes any adjustments and creates the final page PDF.
2. Run a Photo of the Day. One great way to keep the website fresh and improve campus coverage is to assign a photo of the day. Each person on the photo staff is assigned a day of the week and is responsible for checking the calendar for an event on or off campus that promises to be visually interesting. Alternatively, the photographer can stroll the campus looking for an artistic shot, something to do with the weather or just an unusual scene. The shot goes on the website's gallery space with an extended cutline. It could be the first image in a slideshow as well.
Pioneer Press in St. Paul, adopted a branding strategy that played off its reputation as a Pulitzer Prize winner and government watchdog. It adopted the bulldog as a mascot, signifying that it was all about tough news coverage. The Orion needs to get back in the business of tough government coverage, focusing stories on campus and state university governance. That means running beats, reading meeting agendas and minutes, and following up on tips from readers about non-sexy stories that report how the student government, Chico State administration and CSU chancellor's office are doing their jobs.
4. Make more multimedia. Every reporter and writer needs to be thinking about visual elements that will attract readers to their stories. The best first step to a multimedia mindset is to think of the smartphone as a still or video camera that gets deployed whenever a story is being written. Sports and continuous news reporters, especially, need to be thinking visuals, including short video clips, when they're out covering an event. That's what this spring's Videolicious training was all about. Remember that charts, graphs and infographics are also great ways to help tell a story.
5. Do more with data. Chico State, like all campuses, is afloat in paper and reports. Some of them aren't great sources of news, but others have terrific stories to tell if they're analyzed for trends or changes. What kind of financial shape is the SA in after turning the bookstore over to a vendor? Ask for the organization's financial statements for the past three years and put them in a spreadsheet. How have the university's priorities changed over recent years when budgets tightened up? Ask for copies of the budget for those years and see what got cut and what survived intact. Those are stories that won't be in a press release but ones readers will devour and discuss.
Have other ideas? Suggest them in the comments below.