In November 2006, I identified a question that is a good simple test of the online performance of any newsroom in a market where one focus is food, tourism, dining or any combination of those themes.
if you search Boston restaurants on Google, do you find boston.com,
which offers one of the best collections of reviews? What happens when
you search Philadelphia restaurants? Or Washington restaurants?
That was back when I thought naming this blog 07newsroom would show my orientation to the future.
I was talking to Steve Plesa today, a friend from our old
Herald-Examiner days. Now he runs food coverage at The Orange County
Register. While we were on the phone I did the test: Here are the
Google search results for Orange County restaurants.
Where is the first mention of The Register (events.ocregister.com/restaurants)? The first entry I saw was about four screens down.
Have you tried this in your market? What can your newsroom do about it?
The Austin Amercan-Statesman had a big challenge and a big opportunity last week, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came to town for a debate in advance of the March 4 Texas primary.
Online, the newsroom found new ways to cover the event and to uncover what goes on behind the scenes. I noted one feature in a Trailwatch post:
Cool newsroom offering: check out the interactive seating chart from The Austin American-Statesman to see where Chelsea Clinton and the Obama family were sitting in the audience.
The multimedia coverage offered so much more:
A range of video reports.
A very active group live blog. Notice there are more than 30 entries, from debate-watching parties, from the debate, from post-debate gatherings. Writers include interns, staffers, managers. Here’s one entry, with about ten comments. The entire newsroom was involved and that helped the entire community get involved.
Several slideshows, including photos of this debate party.
Oh, and there were articles, too, on the debate itself on the rallies and on plenty of other topics.
Maybe I missed it, but I did have trouble finding a good table of contents to all this great material. Navigation that allows readers to easily go from any one of these pieces of content to all the related links can be an engineering challenge, but also a great service.
The conservative change-averse culture of many news companies costs dollars and readers. How do people get their news? As readers have shifted to online sources, newsrooms have slowly followed. But exactly what matters to readers and what gets them to read? Simple declarative hedlines make all the difference. How many print-oriented newsrooms make sure that all the lyrical heds that work in print are rewritten for the web? Not enough.
Job listings are no different. Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur blog sums up the damage — half of more than $6 billion in recruitment ads have left newspapers and gone to companies that get the web. Why? Here’s Alan on what’s wrong with newspaper culture:
The simple answer is that newspapers – blinded by their utter dominance
of the recruitment advertising market for as long as anyone can
remember – were oblivious to the major shift that took place in the
last decade in how employers recruit workers and how individuals look
Thanks to the power of the Internet to precisely match
employers and job seekers through a vast array of targeted websites,
there no longer is a need for job seekers to squint at the teeny type
in the newspaper to find a job. With newspapers carrying far fewer
listings than ever, there’s not much to squint at, either.
In his whitepaper, Alan writes about some of the upstarts that demonstrate more agility and may offer newspaper companies some hints about how to be innovative in the Internet age. One shoutout is to myfirstpaycheck.com. Yep, a couple of young people — who have heard me talk maybe too often about the conservative culture of the news business — moved quickly and started an online job listing service. Nice of Alan to notice.
Who will pay for serious, investigative journalism? Some of the biggest minds in the field are wrestling with that question, which becomes more urgent as traditional newspaper newsrooms continue to shrink. But there are other sources of money, and many of these groups don’t require a writer to make ethical compromises.
Check out this series, which ran in The Newark Star-Ledger and in a fuller version in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Loretta Tofani already had a Pulitzer Prize and a distinguished career reporting at home and abroad. She also had an idea — many goods sold to American consumers were produced in China under conditions that damaged and sometimes killed the workers who made them.
I was fortunate about a year ago to have the opportunity to talk to Loretta when she was starting this work. I encouraged her to seek grant money and I gave what editorial advice I had to offer.
The Center For Investigative Reporting came through. Executives there supported Loretta with money from the center’s Dick Goldensohn Fund. More money came from the Pulitzer Center For Crisis Reporting.
One writer with a powerful idea, several organizations with guidance and money, and one serious work of investigative journalism. It’s a formula that can be repeated. One sign of success came recently with word that the Tofani series is a finalist for the $25,000 Goldsmith Prize.
Loretta was kind enough to remember me when she learned of her nomination:
Carl, I keep thinking about you and the chance you took on my proposed series. I want to say a big thank you! The series was published in The Salt Lake Tribune (http://extras.sltrib.com/china/) and was just named a finalist for the Goldsmith investigative reporting award. (I guess you heard about the failure to get it into the Inquirer.) Thank you ever so much! You were right about new ways to do journalism. Too bad not everyone had as much vision as you! Loretta
Loretta, I am delighted that there are many, many people in newsrooms who do have vision and courage. Our business can thrive — but we will succeed only as we become willing to invent and embrace the new ways. Thanks for a persuasive example.