editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Don’t tell them it’s training, just say you’re chatting

January 24th, 2008 · 1 Comment

So I’m guessing that your newsroom, like many, is populated with reporters who are comfortable working, eating and even sleeping at their desks. So it’s no surprise that, when you try to hold a brown bag lunch meeting or a brain-storming session, only the usual suspects attend. Increasing participation is a challenge we have all struggled with.

Now might be a moment to drag out that maxim “if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain.”

My suggestion is that you still host those discussions, those meetings and many more gatherings and sessions, but do it in a venue that takes advantage of the habits or your reporters. How can you do this, you ask? Two words — Chat Rooms.

Just six-months-old, ChatMaker.Net allows you to create “very own exclusive, invitation-only chat room.” Simply select a name for your room and the site generates a web address that you can share with only those you want to invite. Once inside, participants can click on the generic name that site assigns them and enter their own name. From there, you’ve got your own online discussion.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Beat Development · Best Practices · Editors · Innovation · Reporting · Tools · Training

Online tools that can be your secret

January 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

OK, judging from the response I received to the recent team building tech and postmortem posts, maybe it would help to step back and focus on something more personal, perhaps something that assistant editors can use to help themselves.

I know first-hand how much the computer systems at many newspapers leave you wanting something more. I had a computer once that physically shimmied and shook if I tried to work on a spreadsheet at the same time that I was on the Internet. But try telling the executive editor that you need a new computer; you’re likely to get laughed out of their office.

Thankfully at most newspapers, Internet access is no longer an issue. Gone are the days when there was only one or two machines connected to the Net. Additionally most newsrooms have left behind dial-up and embraced faster connectivity. So what does any of this mean for our assistant editor with the circa 1980 machine who has no hope for new hardware and whose software is an even bigger joke. Where can they turn? What other tech options do they have?

While the Internet is full of content that can be used to waste time (my personal favorite is Desktop Tower Defense), it also offers lots of productivity and organization tools. There are two companies in particular that I think can provide the most assistance in this instance.

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→ No CommentsTags: Best Practices · Editors · Leadership · Online · Organization · Ottaway · Tools

Postmortems can improve newspapers

January 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

Part of the motivation behind my previous post was that I find, in many newsrooms, training has taken a real hit in recent years and when money is made available, more often then not, it’s used on the reporting, photo or design staffs. Assistant editors, all too often, are expected to just get it and/or figure it out for themselves.

I think the concept of using technology to strengthen the team approach can have real value, but today I want to focus on something that can have just as much, if not more, impact without any tech. In the run and gun life of a newsroom, time for reflection is a rapidly disappearing commodity, even finding time to read one’s own newspaper can be challenging. So it’s really no surprise that postmortems are left for either the morning meeting or the front-page meeting (if at all).

Now it could be that editors are distracted by the word’s etymology (Latin, post mortem, after death), but more then likely it’s that in the crush of ever-increasing added responsibilities, postmortems have become another one of those things editors (at all levels) would like to do, “if they could only find the time”. But I would suggest, I would urge, I would even go as far as to implore you, to find the time.

So what am I really talking about? What do I think a postmortem entails? Who should be included? And, given that time is truly limited, does every story deserve a postmortem?

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→ No CommentsTags: Beat Development · Best Practices · Editors · Leadership · Reporting · Traffic · Training

Assistant editors, go online to improve team performance

January 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Last week, I offered tips that reporters could use to keep and advance their careers. They included: publishing your own newsletter, using double-sided business cards, how social networking sites can help you expand your beat, promote your own work online, and the value of forming your own reader feedback panel. My hope was that these would be easy to follow approaches that would be attractive to reporters of all experience levels. If you missed any, I urge you to check them out. And if you tried any, I’d be interested to hear how they’ve gone for you.

I want to spend this week offering tips for the editors who read this blog — not for the senior or executive editors and really not even for City, Metro, Sports, Features or Business editors, but the assistant editors, the newsroom’s oft-under-appreciated middle managers.

In many newsrooms the team approach is still alive and well. This is when an assistant editor is given a group of reporters to guide, mold, monitor, edit and evaluate. I have seen teams with as few as two reporters to as many as seven. But given the workload of the typical assistant editor, what usually winds up happening in many newsrooms is that the focus shifts from coaching and developing to process — filing weekbooks on time, submitting expense forms, and editing daily copy, with the occasional therapy session possibly in the form of a monthly team meeting. While each of those are indeed relevant and have a place in the overall team approach, so much else gets overlooked.

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→ No CommentsTags: Beat Development · Best Practices · Editors · Leadership · Reporting · Training