APME/APPM 2009

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All the news from the conference in St. Louis

10 a.m. Session: Social Media

 

By Andrew DeWitt

Here on the final day of the APME 2009 conference in St. Louis.

Kurt Greenbaum, director of social media at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Jack Lail, director of news innovation at the Knoxville News Sentinel are here to catch everyone up on Facebook, twitter and RSS Feeds.

I will attempt to not go on a Twitter rant, 160 characters at a time.

The future of the audience aka my generation uses Facebook non-stop. If you’re in any class, you can just see everyone jamming away on facebook while they should be learning about the principals of journalism. Facebook is a binkie for young adults.

10 Things every journalist should know in 2009

Link to all of the Nieman Foundation’s reports on Social Media

Another Web site to check out is www.commoncraft.com

The Knoxville News used links from all across the country to keep everyone up to date on the University of Tennessee head coaching search for a new head coach. This is known as aggregation or “link” journalism.

Jack says this is really effective for sports, politics and stories that continue to evolve.

Moving onto RSS feeds. We’re doing a social experiment where Jack Marsh of the Freedom Forum has to go collect news. While another member of his table had to sit there representing a “Reader” such as Google Reader.

My advice is that if you’re still jumping around bookmarks searching for new content, sign up for Google Reader. It’s really simple. Just Subscribe to your favorite Web sites in the top left corner and everything will pop in.

Basically, Google will now make a newspaper for you every few seconds. It’s really simple to read and it is even easy to read on a mobile device. Instead of being delivered a newspaper every morning, pop open Google Reader in the morning to get caught up on all my news.

Looking around the room, this is a BlackBerry room. Everyone has a smart phone to keep in touch with their newsrooms. In my experience, Google reader works great on my mobile device.

Another Web site recommended by the presenters is http://tinyurl.com/tonymess. Tony works for the STL Post-Dispatch in their Jefferson City office and he is a Twitter success story.

We’re now discussing different ways of following Twitter such as the TweetDeck.

Someone is asking about keeping personal and business things separate. Personally, I don’t facebook or tweet things that people don’t need to know but I’m a lot more private than a lot of my classmates.

Moving onto more complex things about Twitter. We’re now talking about hashtags. “#” is a hash.  It is a way to indicate that a specific tweet is about a topic and a way to get more followers.

My buddy David Ubben who covers Oklahoma basketball for the Oklahoman has shown me a cool new thing they are doing for certain big events. It’s called a Story Wall. This one is from the Red River Shootout earlier this month.

One thing that we don’t know of where it’s going is Google Wave. It will effect journalism in some way but we’re not sure how yet.

Should your newsroom have a social media policy?

“The Common theme that runs through these edicts is that they were written by top managers, with the input of lawyers, who seem to have little understanding of how social media can benefit journalism and news orgs. by building community.” –J.D. Lasica, CEO, Socialmedia.biz

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Filed under: Changing times, Discussions, Workshops, , , , , , , , , ,

Concurrent workshop: Consolidating copy desks

By Jake Sherlock

Here are the folks we’ll be hearing in the session on consolidating copy desk: 

Consolidating copy desks: With costs eating into the bottom line, many newspapers are turning to centralized copy desks to handle layout and design for more than one publication. How does it work and what are the pitfalls?
• Panelists: Pete Wevurski, managing editor, Bay Area News Group/MediaNews; Ann Clark, news executive, Gannett Co. Inc.; Mark Colosimo, executive editor, Suburban Life publications.
• Moderator: Martin Reynolds, editor, Oakland Tribune.

Wevurski is telling some of the horror stories of consolidating copy desks, including coining the term “rogue copy desks.” To summarize,  it led to a lot of confusion in both style and design. One solution to problems was to have editors work 4 days a week on that editor’s “home” publication, and the fifth day was spent working on another publication. This helped with cross-training, and it made scheduling much easier, plus it made for more harmony in production. Journalists who were strong designers but weak copy editors were allowed to focus on design; strong editors but weak designers played the more traditional slot role; those good at both played the more traditional rim role while also designing inside pages. 

Other ideas from Wevurski: Homogenize standing features like comics, sports agate, etc. across all papers in the publication, which allows the individual newsrooms to concentrate on the local news. He also offers some handouts, which we’ll try to get scanned and posted in the Presentations section of the site. 

Colosimo said his chain tries to keep a similar look and feel across all publications, which can be done since none of those overlap. The other advantage to consolidation was it kept more reporters and photographers on the streets while centralizing the gatekeepers. This also helped facilitate content upgrades and a redesign across all papers. Consolidation rooted out local idiosyncrasies that are “remarkably inefficient.” But consolidation also hurt presentation and creativity, plus the universal desk felt “dumped on” when those staffers weren’t part of the news decisions. Eventually the company was able to put designers back with other journalists, so that each publication could have its own identity. Cross-training helped plug people in where help was needed, and templating helped speed production along. 

Clark: Gannett wanted to look at whether copy desk could be consolidated that weren’t particularly close in geography. The company had some experience consolidating newspaper desks close together geographically. Louisville is now paginating (not copy editing) content for papers in South Carolina. Content management systems were key for keeping the papers “talking to each other.” Consolidation is about saving, but it’s also about keeping more people gathering and producing content. She said she believes the core copy editing needs to happen at the home site, which is what is happening with the Louisville plan. 

Reynolds: How do you mitigate the loss of control at the local level? How do you manage that frustration?

Clark: Communication is key. Have to get all sites on the same page with terminology. What “deadline” meant to one shop may be something different to another shop. Skype and Skype-like devices help with the communication. Relationship-building has also been key. Don’t want papers to lose individual identities, but important to ask what can be the same. Daily conversations are important.

Colosimo: Moving newsroom into one location made a big difference. Not just copy desks. Helps to have people sitting together. At one point, two offices were only four miles apart, but may as well have been four states apart.

Filed under: Changing times, Discussions, , , , , ,

Difficult management conversations for photo managers

By Mary Poletti

Jill Geisler, of the Poynter Institute, followed up yesterday afternoon’s general session on management principles with a improv session about difficult management conversations with APPM participants.

The session was more relaxed — a circle of participants in a smaller room, having a conversation about management.

Geisler began the conversation by talking about the management challenges in the spaces of journalism, then asked participants where they thought their newsrooms were in leadership on a scale of 1 to 10. Participants gave extensive answers that directed the session.

The conversation touched on managing people, making time for writers and photographers alike to experience stories, the amateurization of photojournalism, managing and being managed by your journalists, bridging quality gaps without embarrassing journalists in the newsroom,

In all things, Geisler encouraged participants to keep a goal in mind whenever they’re having difficult conversations. Try to visualize your outcome: What would that look like? And try to visualize the obstacles the person you’re managing might raise in a difficult conversation about the goal you have.

Geisler also touched on the idea of attribution theory — the idea that we attribute our behavior to external sources, but others’ to their own personality. We look at situations through our own fears. We often assume the wrong motive when going into a situation. We try to figure out the motives and reasons for others’ behavior, but we are usually wrong.

Do enough due diligence within your group to know, Geisler encouraged participants, that they have your back and there is unanimity of purpose.

In any conflict situation, Geisler said, “you have your goal over here and your relationship over here” since you must work with the person every day. You want to come out on the other side of a difficult conversation with your relationship intact and your goal accomplished.

The group acted out a couple of the difficult conversations that participants expressed a need for help with having — to both the benefit and the entertainment of the group.

Geisler handed out a sheet with 10 tips for difficult conversations, which are often put off to a critical point:

  1. Be clear about your goal.
  2. Know yourself — and your management style.
  3. Prepare for the conversation.
  4. Start strong.
  5. Don’t pile information on. (In the most serious conversations, don’t bury the lede.)
  6. Focus on things you can describe.
  7. Expect emotion. (But don’t react with emotion.)
  8. Stay on track.
  9. End smart.
  10. Follow up.

Geisler emphasized the importance of practicing difficult conversations and again encouraged participants to e-mail her with any questions at jgeisler (at) poynter (dot) org.

Geisler’s News U course “Dealing With Difficult Conversations: A Guide for Managers and Others” can be found at http://bit.ly/2Z545W.

Filed under: APPM, Discussions, ,

10:05 session: Reporting on the Stimulus plan

By Andrew DeWitt
Photo by Kyle Spradley

EXAMPLES OF REPORTING ON THE STIMULUS PLAN AND THE POWERPOINT OF THIS PRESENTATION WILL BE UP ON OUR APME WEB SITE IN ABOUT 30 MINUTES.

This session is on how to report about the stimulus plan and how newspapers should report on how tax payer money is being used.

On the panel will be David Ledford, executive editor for the The News Journal; Matt Apuzzo with The Associated Press; and Bill Allison, who is with the Sunlight Foundation.

“Most stimulus packages are doing local work improving local things. This can be community journalism at its best. The Sunlight foundation is going to provide Webinars so that staffs can easily understand the information.

Where has the money gone so far?

  • $16 billion in federal contracts — data already released
  • $280 billion given to state and local governments — data available on Oct. 30.
  • Who can determine if this money is spent wisely?

Stimulus money funds projects in your communities

  • Only local papers can cover these projects
  • They know their communities
  • They know the priorities

This is community journalism at its finest.

“If local papers don’t cover these stimulus projects, no one will,” Apuzzo said. “It’s going to force people to pick up the newspaper.”

APME, AP and Sunlight will help

  • AP will provide Recovery data and its expertise
  • Sunlight Foundation can do a Newstrain, Webinars

APME will collect the stimulus stories so you can follow stories your colleagues have published.

Story examples can be found on journalgazette.net that can give your staff ideas about what can be covered in your own backyard.

One of the key issues is discovering how money is being spent at the local-local-local level.

What projects are being approved? Another example is what the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found.

Should the government spend $426,000 to replace a bridge that only 10 cars a day use in Arena, Wisconsin?  All of the money was paid with stimulus dollars.

“This bridge was practically a bridge to 3 or 4 private farms in the middle of no where,” said George Stanley, managing editor of the Journal-Sentinel said.

How many jobs were created or saved?

“We must be really skeptical about these numbers are being released about saved jobs,”  Matt Apuzzzo said.

  • Major purpose of Stimulus
  • Hard to count a saved job
  • Can we really trust those numbers?
  • Who will check them?

We’ve only just begun to cover this….

Low traffic border crossings get upgrades worth $420 million…

$272 million in stimulus grants from FAA to low priority projects

“The politics of this is what makes it really interesting stories,” David Ledford said.

Getting started isn’t hard

  • Some very detailed descriptions
  • AP cleans it up.  Data from AP comes ready to use. AP makes it available to member papers quickly.
  • Find all the bridges getting stimulus funds in your readership area. “More often than not, they’re repaving good bridges instead of fixing bad bridges because that’s easier to do,” Matt Apuzzo said.

What can you do with the data? Investigate what companies are receiving settlement funds.

“Red flags jump out all the time,” Apuzzo said.

Sunlight puts data on your iPhone App showing what people and companies have received stimulus money.

Only your papers can tell us…

  • Is the stimulus working?
  • How is money working?

Filed under: Discussions, Economic issues, , , ,

Managing change doesn’t make you crazy, clueless, or cruel

by Mary Poletti

Jill Geisler, group leader for Leadership & Management Programs at the Poynter Institute, set out to address some challenges for newsroom leaders in this climate.

Start positive, she said. What’s working? she asked the audience. What are we proud of? Responses included:

  • “Learning new things”
  • “That people are still laughing in the newsroom”
  • “We are still breaking news”
  • “Writing tighter & smarter”

Geisler used a light, pop-culture method to drive home an important lesson. What can managing editors learn from Whoopi Goldberg’s sassy lounge singer-turned-nun/choir director in Sister Act, Sister Mary Clarence? In the film, she turned a terrible choir into a unified, high-performing team. It was a teaching lesson for Geisler, and she showed a clip from Sister Act of Sister Mary Clarence’s first choir practice and urged tables to take notes on what Sister Mary Clarence did well as someone trying to lead change.

After the film, she asked what the audience wrote. Some responses included:

  • recognizing that all of the nuns were different and empowering them to find their individual voices
  • starting out by organizing
  • putting the right people in the right places
  • not alienating the previous leadership and turning it into a group struggle
  • giving the group some of their passion
  • letting them fail at first
  • starting small
  • accepting old leadership at first before putting it down
  • taking small steps
  • using humor
  • coaching — and using coaching language (Geisler: We all used to be really good at something before we became managers, and we’re still tempted to show off every once in a while.)
  • making expectations clear
  • encouraging listening to one another
  • calling out underperformers without humiliating them
  • making clear why what they’re doing matters

Sometimes we get so busy “feeding the beast” in the daily hustle and bustle of the newsroom, Geisler said, that we forget to make it clear why what we’re doing matters.

Organizations differ, but change challenges are similar, as are solutions (that can be customized to your newsroom), Geisler has learned from the large volume of “change literature” she has read, much of which she quoted and cited during her presentation.

Geisler shared five key principles on which she hoped to elaborate: education, emotion, motivation, collaboration, and communication.

Education: We are constantly learning. “Learning something new makes us temporarily incompetent,” a quote Geisler shared read, and that learning anxiety makes people push back — “I won’t get it,” “I’ll look stupid,” “I have to drop what works,” “I’ll be the outsider,” “I’ll permanently lose credibility.” We choose to change when our survival anxiety becomes greater than our learning anxiety. A lot of managers think that means scare tactics, but that doesn’t work. Don’t increase survival anxiety (it’s high enough right now), reduce learning anxiety. Make training a priority. Understand how adults learn. (How, for example, did you learn how to use your new cell phone?) Put training into action ASAP, and have an immediate follow-up plan for its use. Reward risk-taking. Provide role models — and be one.

Emotion: Yes, it exists in newsrooms! We hope for optimism, but we get anger, sarcasm, or frustration because newsrooms perceive their managers as threatening or as jerks. You are managing the space between the platforms, with all the emotions that brings. The emotions of change are inwardly focused: shock, numbness, denial, blame, anger, and depression. Start moving from the inward to the outward. Understand emotions — theirs and your own. Allow people to let off steam (within reason). Don’t react to emotional outbursts in kind. Remember the power of symbols — for example, do something with all those empty desks, and maintain certain newsroom traditions. (And don’t hide out in your office with the door closed for too long!) To focus change emotions outward, bring the best of the past forward, make the process transparent, orient to the future, and be realistic while sharing genuine optimism. John P. Kotter wrote, “Changing behavior is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them see a truth that influences their feelings.” People don’t analyze>think>change, they see>feel>change. Quick wins, new stories, and role models are key to helping people see, then feel, then change.

As an example of the success of a newsroom, Geisler shared about the recent success of a veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, which reinforced a strong sense of mission and really boosted morale in the newsroom, sending a message about the strength of the newspaper.

Motivation: Geisler urged the audience to remember a time when they couldn’t wait to get to work and respond with their memories, like Election Day, the day of a new product’s launch, working on a big stretch assignment, the day after 9/11, and more. The common thread in those memories, Geisler said, is not the extrinsic reward (not so many of those these days), but the intrinsic motivators — what drives us. The key intrinsic motivators, according to Kenneth W. Thomas, are competence (doing more of what we’re good at), choice (letting everyone in the newsroom contribute to big ideas), meaningfulness (“boy, Sister Mary Clarence told us about that” — reminding people of the meaning of what they do), and progress (giving constructive feedback to reporters). In terms of feedback, knowledge workers like reporters value autonomy, the right kind of feedback (non-controlling and attentive, among other things), and a voice in designing their work, especially when it involves change. Which brought Geisler to…

Collaboration: Innovation requires collaboration, Geisler said. According to Keith Sawyer, “group genius generates breakthrough innovation.” According to Lynda Gratton, “boundary spanners” are key — staffers who naturally network, build bonds, exchange information, and solve problems. Geisler encouraged the audience to identify and acknowledge theirs. What do managers do that creates and/or encourages those people? To foster collaboration, Geisler shared what she called a simple tip: Discover what makes a great day at work for others — boss expectations, professional standards, peer values, personal goals.

Communication: Communication fuels change. Relentlessly communicate about that change, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton wrote. “Leaders manage meaning,” Warren Bennis wrote. “They find ways to make dreams apparent and alive to others.” Communicating relentlessly — in many ways, not just in meetings, but in conversations, word of mouth, and what Geisler called “meetings before/after the meeting” — is the key to making change apparent and alive. Remember, with regard to change communication, that what you’ve known for a while, reporters and newsroom employees are just now processing. Information is currency. People don’t hear well when their emotions are engaged. Even stupid rumors need to be addressed.

Geisler ended with a mash-up of motivational film speeches — “40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes.” “I don’t know if you can rise to that level of inspiration every day, but try,” Geisler said. “Journalism needs it.”

Jill Geisler presents techniques for managing change
Jill Geisler, group leader for Leadership and Management Programs at the Poynter Institute, challenged editors to foster communication among their staff to motivate them in times of innovation and change, Oct. 28, 2009, in St. Louis, Mo. (APME 2009 Coverage Photo/ Emily Stewart)

APME editors respond to Jill Geisler's presentation
Audience members watch as Jill Geisler played a short clip from the movie “Sister Act” to provide comic relief during her conference workshop on change. She suggested managers teach their employees by reinforcing their competence, Oct. 28, 2009, in St. Louis, Mo. (APME 2009 Coverage Photo/ Emily Stewart)

For help or inspiration, contact Geisler at jgeisler (at) poynter (dot) org.

Download Geisler’s handouts:
Change checkup
Rules of change
Four barriers to collaboration

Filed under: Changing times, Discussions, , , ,

Losing Focus: Has the Economy Sapped Efforts to Build Diverse Staffs?

Watch it live on UStream. Or keep track of the discussion on Twitter @APME2009

3:15 APME Session

Through buyouts, layoffs and attrition, most newsrooms have lost staff. What is the state of efforts to build diversity in newsrooms, and what are strategies for trying to fix things in an uncertain economic time?

Moderator: Alan D. Miller, managing editor-news, The Columbus Dispatch.

Panelists: Wanda Lloyd, executive editor, Montgomery Advertiser, Troy Turner, editor, Farmington Daily Times, Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Karen Magnuson, editor and vice-president/news Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Filed under: Discussions, Diversity, , , , , , ,

Q&A with Gerry Kern and Paul Anger

By Sarah D. Wire

Don’t forget you can watch this live at Ustream.

Key information from the Q&A

Kern: “We’ve got to get more products out there that meet consumer needs in ways we haven’t before.”

Anger: The content has to connect with the community despite the platform, not because of it. “We’re getting better” at the different platforms “but it’s really the information.”

On how he sold the newsroom on making watchdog journalism the main focus.

Kern “People in the newsroom like. It wasn’t a hard sell. It was trying to explain how you look at the world. You’re here to look out for everyone’s interest. The thing they needed to see that I was behind it and I was willing to back them up. Not being afraid to shake some things up and make people mad.

“We then had some successes. It’s then taken off like wildfire.”

On how readers reacted to your aggressive editorial stance which included publishing editorials on the front page?

Kern “Readers loved it. People in Illinois were damn mad and fed up. There was a vacuum of leadership missing and we stepped into it. We felt like we needed to go on a moral high ground. The response was positive.”

“We said we were going to stand up and lead opinion and that’s what we did.”

What tensions did you encounter from inner-city customers as you made changes?

Anger: Freep didn’t see much tension from a particular group. “People that liked the crinkle of the paper with their coffee, that was the common thread.” He said they didn’t see people feeling disenfranchised based on where they live.

Kern: The Trib is focusing on not forgetting the inner-city.

How do you balance being a watchdog and deliver the bread-and-butter kind of news?

Kern: The Tribune is such a large paper that it currently might not be the best place for information on a local council meeting. “For too long we stood on the sidelines and just put the story out there… there was no sense of us being in the game because we had a stake in the community.”

Anger: It amounts to a matter of time. The Free Press publishes a list of ‘decisions to be made that week’ that outlines issues in the individual communities. “You don’t adandon” but you look for what you can do.

Filed under: Discussions, Economic issues, , , , , , ,

Paul Anger presents The Detroit Plan

By Sarah D. Wire

“The headline in Detroit is so far so good,” Paul Anger, editor of the Detroit Free Press, says.

He outlined the goals of The Detroit Plan, which are:

  • Keep the newsroom strong
  • Retain two independent newspapers
  • Make digital delivery of the news the priority
  • Retain our print revenue

“Our plan has shifted us further away from print and freed us up to do things that are exciting,” Anger said.

An e-edition available to subscribers lets people see the paper online just as if it was printed. Anger said it has been a surprise hit.

Anger said people like the three day delivery.

The Free Press print a compact version of the paper of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. This paper isn’t home delivered. It is geared toward being an impulse buy and is “colorful, fast reading.”

The Thursday and Friday papers have more advertising and separate sections.
The Sunday edition has more room for enterprise and investigative pieces.

The number of unique Web visitors is up 14 percent in 2009. Traffic spikes on the e-edition on days when the paper isn’t delivered.

Anger said people like the three day delivery.

Anger said the Free Press still gets 80 percent of its revenue from print. He said despite the shift, their decrease in ad dollars isn’t any more than other metros.

“This is a new era, people will find good journalism on our Web site,” Anger said.

Filed under: Discussions, Economic issues, , , , , , ,

New directions for news

Gerry Kern, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and Paul Anger, editor of the Detroit Free Press, share their papers approaches and talk about what they see coming for their markets and how that might apply to other markets.

Follow the live stream on UStream

Streaming Video by Ustream.TV

Filed under: Discussions, Economic issues

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