APME/APPM 2009

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All the news from the conference in St. Louis

9 a.m.: Innovator of the Year Award

by Mary Poletti

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City’s daily newspaper, won the third Innovator of the Year Award on the final day of this year’s APME conference for their integration of video into all aspects of their coverage and the duties of all of their reporters. Kelly Fry, the Oklahoman’s vice president of news and information, called the development a “culture change.”

“It’s been a lot of hard work to change the culture at the Oklahoman,” Fry said as she accepted the award. But, she said, “We owe it to the public.”

The APME Innovator of the Year Award goes out to the paper with the best print, digital, online, or other innovation of the year. Participants voted for the winner with paper ballots after watching a brief video about each paper’s innovation and taking part in a brief question-and-answer session with a representative from that paper.

This year, the Oklahoman won by instituting what they call a “total approach to video” into their Web site, NewsOK.com, that senior staff claim puts them on the same level as TV. All reporters are equipped with small video cameras and are trained to search for a possible video component in every story. The Oklahoman uses a tiered system of training for the creation of video; all reporters are trained to generate what’s called Tier 1 video. Autoplay videos are embedded in every story online where video has been shot, and many beats feature recurring video segments set up as talk shows with reporters.

“Any way we can tell stories effectively and immediately is what we’re doing now,” said sports reporter Darnell Mayberry, who covers the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Oklahoman’s video. He cited not only video as part of this effort, but also blogs and social networking.

The Oklahoman also uses video and social networking to flesh out their breaking news coverage. For coverage of a crippling ice storm, NewsOK.com ran live streaming video of the highways throughout the day alongside a reader-staff chat forum through CoverItLive.

In conversation with moderator Bob Heisse after their video, Fry said the Oklahoman’s initial video investment had been about $1 million. In return, the paper is on track to best 10 million video views in 2009 – up from 1 million in 2008.

Fry said three key reasons the Oklahoman transitioned to video as such an integral part of their news operation were to extend their journalism (“If you have a tool, why not use it?”), to spend more time being intentional about their Web site, and to generate revenue. Among other revenue sources that have stemmed from their use of video, outside businesses use the Oklahoman’s studio for their own video needs.

Three newspapers competed for the Innovator of the Year Award. Heisse said the competition was the closest it had ever been.

“No seconds or thirds. These are all winners,” Heisse told the audience.

The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla., was nominated for a focus on “journalism shaped by community.” The newspaper orchestrated several community information and improvement efforts, using its status as a community leader to go above and beyond simply presenting information to actively better the community.

The News-Press’s “Dear Mr. President” project collected the opinions of readers to present to President Obama in print and online multimedia form. “Summer of Hunger” brought together local services to feed area residents who would otherwise have gone hungry during the summer months and to connect them with social services for a lasting effect on their quality of life. More than 20,000 people were served, and 6,000 families were connected with social services. And a macroeconomic project brought together business and community leaders to distribute information on job-seeking, cost-cutting, and other means of coping with the economic crisis, which hit the construction- and real estate-based Fort Myers economy particularly hard.

Senior managing editor Cindy McCurry-Ross told Heisse the projects and similar work “let the readers really come in as the foundation of our journalism and help us forge solutions for our community.”

“Knowing from our journalism that there was going to be a problem…we needed to use our ability as community leaders to get [people] at the table and facilitate the conversation,” McCurry-Ross said. “We wanted to play a leadership role, but we also wanted to cede some of that leadership back to the community and say, ‘We’ve got to fix this together.’”

At the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, the paper built on its strong tradition of environmental reporting to launch the Web site AllGreentoMe.com, a portal for information about the environment. Aggregating the best of environmental content on the Web through automated search functions, the site also includes community contributions from area environmental scientists and university professors. The site connected with citizens to advance the idea of “a green economy” while fulfilling a watchdog function to keep the agriculturally rich area aware of and safe from threats like rising rivers.

“We’re trying to use technology to tell stories in a really deep and sophisticated way,” said vice president of news and executive editor David Ledford.

The integration of science-oriented community content helped, too, Ledford said: “That gives it credibility. That kind of science really brings it a level up.”

Both the News-Press and the News Journal spoke to the need for solid management skills to launch new innovations in a changing newspaper environment.

McCurry-Ross said the paper’s four principles in looking at new endeavors could be summed up in the acronym POTS, which stands for planning, ownership, teamwork, sustainability.

The News Journal’s video said the paper, which has experienced downsizing, relied on multitasking to ensure the success of AllGreentoMe.com. Many newsroom staff members took on site-related responsibilities in addition to their full-time duties at the paper.

The APME began the Innovator of the Year competition in 2007. The News-Press won that year for their series of integrated efforts to solicit reader news tips.

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Filed under: Awards, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , ,

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, , , ,

Losing focus: Diversity in newsrooms, news coverage

Diversity

Troy Turner, right, editor of the Farmington Daily Times, describes his paper's coverage of the Navajo community in Farmington, Ariz.

By Sarah D. Wire
Photo by Jim Buell


Diversity cannot be forgotten just because money is tight, panelists for the Losing Focus session said.

This means what we cover, who we represent and how we create our staffs.

Newspapers need to take stock now of how they’ll cover the 2010 census and immigration reform. Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he thinks the country will address immigration reform within the next year.

“These two things need to be looked at now,” he said. “We have to get past this shift that my market isn’t going to be touched by immigration.”

By 2042 the country will be “majority minority,” Bailon said. One in five children in the U.S. is Hispanic. “It’s something we as newspaper editors need to be aware of,” he said.

Newsrooms can’t ignore internal diversity either, Wanda Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser said.

Lloyd said when the money crisis started the diversity conversation ended. The number of minorities in the newsroom is half of the national average.

“We’re not getting close at all,” she said.

Lloyd said papers should think about whether they are prepared to have conversations about race and we can’t rely only on minorities to have that conversation.

Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/news of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle outlined what her paper has done to increase diversity.

A group of reporters made sure the initiative were actually implemented, she said.

Their focus was on recruitment, retention and honest reporting of the community.

Outside of an initial reader panel, she suggests continuous outreach such as a social media workshop for young, black leaders in the community.

“I can’t emphasize how important it is to have a group of people to help the executive editor execute,” she said. “It doesn’t cost anything to start out with a diversity committee of passionate people.”

For retention, it’s about giving people opportunity and putting together a pathway of professional development, Magnuson said.

The diversity committee at the Democrat and Chronicle created a multimedia academy for high school students in the inner-city.

Troy Turner, editor of the Farmington Daily Times said being aware of the actual diversity of your coverage area, including religious and cultural diversity, is important.

His suggestions include: be comfortable and proud of who you are, you’ve got to get out into the community, know the cultural and racial issues in your community, understand the value of earned respect, hire good journalists first and foremost, grow your own diverse staff through interns and high school students, recruit minorities based on staff success stories.

The panel only got to one question which is: My staff is shrinking, my people of color are leaving… what strategy do you recommend to build a diverse staff?

Lloyd suggested bringing the community into the conversation and having them help with story ideas and writing.

Magnuson said cultivate your staff to believing in the mission of diversity.

“It’s really all about genuinely conversing with people.. about the core value you hold dear and eventually they believe your sincerity,” she said.

Filed under: Economic issues, , , , , ,

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, , , , , , ,

Flickr Photos

Twitter

  • That's the conference, folks! :) Won't you join @APME Oct. 20-22, 2010, at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.? (#apme10, anyone?)| 8 years ago
  • Congratulations to our coverage team members Emily Stewart & Kristin DiFate, winners of $500 scholarships for their work this week #apme09| 8 years ago
  • Magnuson: challenging all newsroom/newspaper leaders to rebuild with leadership & diversity in mind #apme09| 8 years ago
  • Magnuson: sharing award with the D&C newsroom; "commitment to diversity must come very clearly from the top" #apme09| 8 years ago
  • Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership: honoree #2: Karen Magnuson, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle #apme09| 8 years ago

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