APME/APPM 2009

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All the news from the conference in St. Louis

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.

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Filed under: Changing times, 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, , , ,

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