APME/APPM 2009

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All the news from the conference in St. Louis

Workshop: What structure works best

by Mary Poletti

No one structure fits all, and no single best structure exists, Rockford (Ill.) Register-Star executive editor Linda Grist Cunningham said at the outset of the workshop “What structure works best.”

What matters is that a structure exists for journalists’ chaotic work — and what matters in that structure, Cunningham said, is who’s doing the work, whether they understand who’s doing the work, and whether they’re doing it well. The workshop’s three editor-panelists largely echoed that sentiment.

Tom Callinan

Callinan, the editor and vice president for content and audience development at the Cincinnati Enquirer, described his restructuring modus operandi as “all about the work” and his attitude toward restructuring as “stop playing newspaper.Most of the content is now hard news.

Through Gannett-mandated restructuring of his newsroom over the last year, Callinan said he had lost 60 reporters in his newsroom — but not a single public interest reporter, having, in fact, hired some of those. He now serves as the managing editor and editorial page manager, with the paper having targeted middle management in its downsizing: “We’ve whacked all of the middle management. They’re gone. …We don’t need it.” Gone, too, are the multiple meetings each day — replaced by one virtual meeting at 9:30 and a check-in at 4:30. Editors now spend much more time with reporters, including Callinan, whose direct reports now sit directly outside his office. “We don’t sit behind that closed door,” Callinan said.

Despite the difficult changes at the Enquirer, the paper is emerging from its funk and growing in its content. Focusing on hard news has helped.

George Stanley

“This has been the toughest year of my career, for sure,” said Stanley, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which lost a third of its staff this year. But, he said, “We haven’t lost anybody doing accountability journalism…the important stuff… That’s what drives everything we do” and distinguishes them from their competitors.

There are fewer specialists at the paper in design and editing, and assistant editors have now picked up some of those responsibilities, as well as reporting duties. There are only four people in the newsroom (including editorial assistants, librarians, etc.) who are not journalists — “because we saved the journalists.”

Lisa Strattan

Strattan’s paper, the Herald River in Fall River, Mass., is far smaller than the other papers featured in the workshop — 26 people in the newsroom, including Strattan. The most formal reorganization, a year ago, accompanied a redesign and followed a set of downsizings, and the paper lost a few others this year. However, the addition of one person has added “a layer of management” — “an uber-editor who can get everything done,” to pull together the paper’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality.

Strattan specifically addressed the paper’s status as a union shop. Apart from the paper’s four managers, everyone else is union — and the managers’ duties are quite separate from the guild members’. Communication between the paper and the guild, she said, is key.

Eliminating Sections & Content

Cunningham said her paper had eliminated features six days a week, replacing that section with a go/do section, and had all but stopped running AP content.

Callinan cited cincymoms.com as a cheap and very popular example of finding and working the source of features content rather than devoting space to features. He pointed to Examiner.com as a direct competitor with newspapers in this area, where the site hires cheap bloggers to directly compete with newspapers.

Stanley said the Journal Sentinel newsroom had stopped zoning their content geographically, with beat reporters now scouring the whole coverage area for the best stories.

Foresight

If you had known a year ago what you know now, Cunningham asked the panel, what would you have done differently?

Stanley said he would have made reporters stretch their abilities and prove their worth to save their skins.

“Going back further than a year, I think we can all agree that we should have had a stronger evaluation process,” Callinan said, in order to preserve people’s rights beyond simply union-mandated seniority. Cutting middle management had been unavoidable, but the cuts had gone awfully deep.

Managing Stress

So how do these editors and their staff handle the stress level? By keeping purpose in mind.

“Who gets to do what we do?” Strattan said.

Stanley said, “I worry about what the next six months will be like, but if you focus on doing great work” and why you want to come to work every day — “to save the world” — it is a tremendous motivator. Make everyone, including copy editors, part of big projects from the beginning.

Callinan emphasized the desire of young journalists to work in teams and work for purposeful companies. Purpose is a big deal to millennials. “We have that common cause,” he said. He emphasized the individuality of management style as well.

Cunningham touched on delegation, letting go and letting others help. She asked the panel and the audience about restructuring task forces and allowing staff to come up with ideas. Man audience members said versions of those ideas had been effective for them, as long as boundaries were in place: “You still have to know where you’re going,” Stanley said.

Filed under: Changing times, Photojournalism, Workshops, , , , ,

2:45 Breakout session: Losing a day

By Andrew DeWitt

Cutting days

Lori Kilchermann, John Tucker and Steve Wade turn to discuss cutting days of newspaper content. Photo by Lauren Foreman

In this breakout session are the following people talking about how to adapt to losing a day of newspaper delivery.

Lori Kilchermann, John Tucker and Steve Wade are here in the room to share their experiences.

John Tucker says that generally what they tried to tell people in the Lake of the Ozarks was that we were going to deliver more news and more importantly more local news. Had some difficultly in changing over from older

Steve Wade went through his transition 13 months ago. After the KC Star pulled back away from his publication’s coverage area, he was able to use that an example for what was going to come. His smaller paper feared the community outrage after a failed attempt back in 1992. They were concerned about cutting the Monday edition and gave two weeks notice.  Also told readers that they were not going to get less news and even more.

Lori said that they chose to cut Monday based on advertising day. Also, there was no competition would move into the Monday day. Monday just worked well for her competition. Another challenge her paper faced was deciding where to move a special feature section, specifically health, away from Monday into a Tuesday.

Steve said that the numbers decided to also cut Monday. He said that readers missed starting off the work week with a newspaper and that the routine was disrupted.

John said that he thought that killing the Monday paper hurt the work flow of going. Looking back, he would have killed the Saturday paper even though that would have meant killing the high school football Saturday newspapers.

All three editors said they struggled with readers being upset about the Comics missing for one day. Lori said that her paper has doubled up on games and comics on Tuesday to make readers happy.

Steve Wade said that they took a customer friendly approach dealing with subscriptions. They extended each subscription a day longer for each Monday they missed. Looking back, he said that approach probably cost them some money and could have dealt with unhappy customers on an individual basis.

Lori said her publisher took a hard-stance and said they weren’t going to issue refunds for canceling the Monday paper. She said a couple of subscribers decided to cancel but they loved the paper so much that they came back anyways.

Steve said they made a mistake in that the Sunday reporter relaxed and they didn’t manage those expectations correctly.

Lori said they have a photographer who publishes things on the Web on Sundays so that if readers check the Web site Monday morning there is something fresh there.

John said that his paper was bluntly honest with readers how much his paper was struggling. He also made a promise to readers that they would get more stories and his paper has delivered on that promise.

Steve and Lori said they tightened their Tuesday paper to have more bulk so neither publication added more pages.

Steve said the most positive thing has been that the cut has served as a rallying point for the community to support the newspaper. People in Steve’s coverage area are afraid of losing their paper after losing delivery of the KC Star so they have supported the paper better than ever.

John suggested a little PR by putting in-house ads into the newspaper that explain how the newspaper is changing and how it is going to make things better.

Lori and Steve both said that they were both considering cutting more days if that’s what it comes to.

John says you really start to be a different product completely when you cut more than just one day. The paper becomes more feature based and less about being timely.

Steve believes that the day of the Internet being the main money maker is coming sooner than later.

Filed under: Economic issues, Management principles, ,

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, , , , , ,

Online credibility 9 a.m.

DSC_0046

APME Panelists discuss their ongoing Online Credibility Projects

Slideshow by Lauren Foreman

Story by Eric Berger

Grappling with the vast, timeless, open and unflinching nature of  publishing online can certainly be difficult. 

Thursdays morning’s session provided evidence of this as editors discussed issues involving reader postings, the separation of news from opinion and “unpublishing”. 

Six different newsrooms participated in APME projects aimed at examining online credibility.

Elaine Kramer moderated the discussion with Ken Fleming, director of the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Kathy English, public editor for The Toronto Star, and Chris Cobler editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate, participating in the panel. 

English’s project examined the issue of unpublishing. People often want news to disappear, she said, and while the print product will be yesterday’s recycling, the online content can live forever. While a complete solution to this has not been found, one of the key answers English mentioned is transparency. A person may come to the newspaper horribly upset at what has been published and the damage to their reputation it has left, and a clear policy must be conveyed as to why or why not something will be unpublished. 

Source remorse should not serve as a reason for unpublishing and decisions about whether content should be taken down should be done by a consensus, not just one person, she said. 

With regards to crimes and misdemeanors committed by minors and the lasting stigma, English said a tool to remove news from the website after six months could be a solution. 

English wrote a column on the issue and said she was surprised by reader’s understanding of why a newspaper wouldn’t take a story down.

Search engines serve as another source for unwanted stories to be found through. Even if a newspaper takes something down, that doesn’t necessarily take it off a Google News search. English responded by saying this issue needs more discussion between newspapers and news aggregate sites such as Google.

She also said lawyers have told her they believe legal precedence on unpublishing will come.

Cobbler discussed how their redesigned site effected their credibility. With Fleming’s help they conducted surveys of Advocate readers and found that their audience seemed to have the same level of trust in the online content as the print edition. That being said, only 19 percent of their readers contributed online. Almost equal numbers of people said they trusted unsigned postings by readers as much as letters to the editor.

The subject of how to deal with inappropriate commenting was also brought up. Even if a comment is taken down, readers can make assumptions about what was written. This is another issue that also remains without solid answers.

Looking to the future, Cobbler said a primary issue would be, how do we make sure online interactivity benefits the community? 

Enhanced registration, additional education steps to users and an e-ethics board of readers are components  Cobbler sees as potential answers to this question.

The APME will publish websites for the online credibility projects with space to interact and host webinars over the next year.

Filed under: Photojournalism,

Noon: AP staff award winners announced

John O'Connor

Photo by Kyle Spradley

DEADLINE REPORTING: Jet Down on the Hudson,” Associated Press staff

When the US Airways jet went down in the Hudson River, the AP staff in New York was at its best, producing insightful, compelling and comprehensive stories. From 3:51 p.m. to 11 p.m. the main news lead was changed 19 times. Sidebars included items about passengers, reconstruction of the flight and a look at the threat of birds.

Honorable mention for coverage of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

FEATURE WRITING: National Writer Sharon Cohen, “The Long Haul.”

“The Long Haul” was a compelling tale of soldiers from Minnesota going off to war and the impact on their lives and families. The reporter did an outstanding job of gathering string from many different places to weave the tale of these soldiers and their incredibly long deployment.

Honorable mention to Helen O’Neill for a profile of a brilliant young chef who faced cancer of the tongue; O’Neill for a profile of an aging racist who apologized for beating a young black activist a half-century ago; Texas Sports Editor Jaime Aron for a narrative abouat the premature birth of his twin sons and the tiny babies’ struggle to survive; and Orange County, Calif., correspondent Gillian Flaccus for a look behind the “roll call of the dead,” a reading of the names of 148,000 veterans at Riverside National Cemetery.

ENTERPRISE REPORTING: Michelle Faul of Johannesburg, South Africa, “Congo Unrest”

Her series focused on the unrest in the region, as well as the story about how girls, young children and even babies had been raped by rebel soldiers.

Honorable mention to “The Border Series” by Elliot Spagat about immigration and drug trafficking; the AP teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan for groundbreaking stories during the year; and “PharmaWater” by the AP national investigative team of Jeff Donn, Martha Mendoza and Justin Pritchard for coverage of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s drinking water supplies.

BEST USE OF VIDEO: Evan Vucci, Maya Alleruzzo, Rick Bowmer and Matt Ford, “Killer Blue: Baptized by Fire.”

They brought their stories to life for readers everywhere with “Killer Blue: Baptized by Fire,” about the unit of Fort Hood-based 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment’s 3rd Squadron, one of the last Army units to serve a 15-month combat tour in Iraq.

Honorable mentions to Julie Pace, Jason Bronis, Bonny Ghosh, Rich Matthews, Sagar Meghani and Michael Waldren of AP’s Washington Bureau for “The Inauguration of Barack Obama,” who produced eight hours of live streaming video, an interactive video, news coverage and analysis.

BEST USE OF MULTIMEDIA: Brian Carovillano, Carrie Osgood, David Scott, John Balestrieri, Mike Schneider, Troy Thibodeaux, Mike Baker, Jake O’Connell, Peter Prengaman and Allen Chen, “Economic Stress Index: Measuring Financial Strain by County.”

The AP team included staff from Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Raleigh, N.C., New York and Washington.

Honorable mention to the Washington multimedia staff for the 2008 election.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY: Khalil Hamra, “Israeli Incursion Into Gaza.”

Hamra was selected for his series of photographs chronicling the destruction, chaos and rage associated with the Israeli incursion into Gaza, the neighborhood where Hamra lived with his partner, pregnant with twins when the fighting began.

Honorable mention to David Guttenfelder for his Afghan embed series and Emilio Morenatti for his photos of refugees from the Swat Valley violence.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY: Emilio Morenatti, “Portraits of Pakistani Women Burned by Acid.”

Morenatti was awarded for his dignified portraits of women horribly burned in acid attacks or set on fire, often by their husbands or family members.

Honorable mention to Rodrigo Abd for a photo of a Guatemalan transvestite; and to Ariana Cubillos for photographs of a maternity hospital in Haiti.

JOHN L. DOUGHERTY AWARD: Jae C. Hong for excellence by a young AP journalist.

Hong’s gallery of work included a portrait of Barack Obama on the campaign trail, for “The Long Haul,” which documented the 22-month deployment of soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard and others. AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, accepting the award on Hong’s behalf, said of Hong’s campaign work (some of which is featured here), “He just continued to wow us every day.” Hong is one of the first photographers to win what’s traditionally been a print-dominated award.

Honorable mention went to Katharine Houreld, correspondent in Kenya, for bringing international stories home to readers.

CHARLES ROWE AWARD: John O’Connor, for distinguished state reporting.

O’Connor’s stories ranged from the misconduct of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoyevich to wasteful spending by anonymous bureaucrats to details about the parole status of the man accused of killing members of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family.

MEMBER SHOWCASE PHOTO: Andrea Melendez, The Des Moines Register

Melendez shot a photo of a worker in Des Moines rescuing a woman caught in the rushing Des Moines River downtown.

Filed under: Photojournalism

11:15 a.m.: Developments at the AP

by Mary Poletti

Associated Press management staff presented some recent developments at the news company in a large session Thursday morning.

Regionalization

VP/Senior Managing Editor Michael Oreskes talked about regionalization and the process AP undertook last year and this year of regionalizing their management. Four regional editors now oversee the East, West, Central, and South regions. The AP is still based in New York City, but the regional editors are now out in the states, “and that’s not an accident,” Oreskes said. They are focused on listening to regional news concerns as well as to “AP’s voracious need for content about the United States for the country and for the whole world.” To describe changes on the regional level, Oreskes turned the podium over to the South regional editor.

Some changes are immediately apparent. Each AP bureau still has its own desk, but “everyone in every AP bureau is now a reporter,” mining beats for stories. Reporting shifts have increased, with the AP’s ability to break overnight news improving with it. Editors on regional desks are closer to AP stories now than the AP had been at the national desks, with their high volume of stories. Content gets to clients now much faster than it did before the regionalization.

Other benefits have taken longer to develop. Chief among them is beat reporting. In the past, beat reporters had often worked with minimal supervision and interaction with editors, and AP bureaus did not sufficiently mine the beat for depth and breadth of stories. Now the AP utilizes border-crossing “beat teams” with a single editor for each beat topic, focusing in depth on specific topics with reporters, photographers, and videographers. A brief video showcased some of the best AP beat and enterprise reporting going on across the country, from creeks full of pollutants to corrupt politicians.

After the video, John O’Connor, the lead AP reporter from Springfield, Ill., who covered Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s fall from political grace, called state reporting “the bread and butter of the AP.” “Regardless of the times, with the resources we have at the AP, there’s always time for enterprise,” he said, describing the ways the AP had enabled him to take extra time to report out the story and obtain key documents exposing various aspects of Blagojevich’s corruption, such as his liberal use of state aircraft.

Difficult photo decisions

AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll introduced an audio slideshow, “Death of a Marine: A photographer’s journal,” documenting the experiences of an AP photographer embedded with a Marine unit in Afghanistan. The story garnered attention because it produced a controversial photo of the fatally wounded Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard.

AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon explained AP photo staff’s considerable reflection on the photo and its details before deciding that the photo was not gratuitous or excessively graphic, but simply “a harsh image from a harsh environment” that was fit to be distributed. Lyon cited the AP’s “journalistic responsibility to show the truth” in the face of the heat they faced from the fallen Marine’s family, from the government, and from clients who refused to use the photo.

Storytelling

Oreskes returned to the podium to introduce a segment on “New Storytelling” and the AP’s challenge of finding and using new story forms. He cited the Washington feature “Capital Culture,” which focuses on the life of the first family; the AP Economic Stress Index graphic, measuring and showing financial strain on Americans by county; and new approaches to news timelines, which were put into use with two key entertainment stories this year, the death of Michael Jackson and director Roman Polanski’s renewed legal woes.

These efforts, Oreskes said, are the result of collaboration among journalists.

To illustrate storytelling, AP Chicago reporter Sharon Cohen spoke of her story on soldiers deployed in Iraq — “The Long Haul.” Multimedia seemed to her the best way to tell the story and take readers inside “the road to Iraq and back again”: photos, audio, video of funerals, an interactive piece based on a military action report, slideshows, and combinations thereof. As an example, she showed a slideshow telling the story of a 26-year-old Minnesota Army National Guard sergeant who lost both legs after driving over an improvised explosive device (IED) in Fallujah, Iraq.

Conclusion/Q&A

The presentation ended with a time for audience questions and answers with Carroll.

Many questions focused on the hot-button topic of the fallen Marine photo. Many managing editors in the audience said they had chosen not to run the photo. One question revisited the decision to show that photo to the young man’s parents before publication. Another pointed out journalism’s historical use of graphic war photos and asked about the recent push to eliminate “dead body photos” from coverage, which Carroll said had been a pervading governmental view since the Vietnam War. Carroll briefly discussed the political fight the AP faced.

In other news, another question affirmed the quality of AP content but addressed its pricing.

Carroll ended by updating participants on the condition of AP photographer Emilio Morenatti, who was seriously injured during an embed in Afghanistan and lost a leg, and on the safety of AP staff in Baghdad.

Filed under: Changing times, , , ,

New Photos Up on Flickr

New photos are uploaded from last night’s reception at the City Museum and the start of this morning’s talks.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/apme2009/

Filed under: Misc.

9 a.m. Building Online Credibility

by Eric Berger

Grappling with the vast, timeless, open and unflinching nature of  publishing online can certainly be difficult. 

Thursdays morning’s session provided evidence of this as editors discussed issues involving reader postings, the separation of news from opinion and “unpublishing”. 

Six different newsrooms participated in APME projects aimed at examining online credibility.

Elaine Kramer moderated the discussion with Ken Fleming, director of the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Kathy English, public editor for The Toronto Star, and Chris Cobler editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate, participating in the panel. 

English’s project examined the issue of unpublishing. People often want news to disappear, she said, and while the print product will be yesterday’s recycling, the online content can live forever. While a complete solution to this has not been found, one of the key answers English mentioned is transparency. A person may come to the newspaper horribly upset at what has been published and the damage to their reputation it has left, and a clear policy must be conveyed as to why or why not something will be unpublished. 

Source remorse should not serve as a reason for unpublishing and decisions about whether content should be taken down should be done by a consensus, not just one person. 

With regards to crimes and misdemeanors committed by minors and the lasting stigma, English said a tool to remove news from the website after six months could be a solution. 

English wrote a column on the issue and said she was surprised by reader’s understanding of why a newspaper wouldn’t take a story down.

Search engines serve as another source for unwanted stories to be found through. Even if a newspaper takes something down, that doesn’t necessarily take it off a Google News search. English responded by saying this issue needs more discussion between newspapers and news aggregate sites such as Google.

She also said lawyers have told her they believe legal precedence on unpublishing will come.

Cobbler discussed how their redesigned site effected their credibility. With Fleming’s help they conducted surveys of Advocate readers and found that their audience seemed to have the same level of trust in the online content as the print edition. That being said, only 19 percent of their readers contributed online. Almost equal numbers of people said they trusted unsigned postings by readers as much as letters to the editor.

The subject of how to deal with inappropriate commenting was also brought up. Even if a comment is taken down, readers can make assumptions about what was written. This is another issue that also remains without a complete solution.

Looking to the future, Cobbler said a primary issue would be, how do we make sure online interactivity benefits the community? 

Enhanced registration, additional education steps to users and an e-ethics board of readers are components  Cobbler sees as potential answers to this question.

The APME will publish websites for the online credibility projects with space to interact and host webinars over the next year.

Filed under: Misc.

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?

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