Monthly Archives: September 2011

Living Legends, Lessons From a Postal Stamp Prompt

Who in your area should be on a stamp?

What's the point of of questioning the audience? In your newsroom, when you ask a question across your site and social media platforms, do you have a metric for success? Is it 20 responses? 200? Somewhere in between? 

Do you know what brings more responses — time of day, wording of question, amplification by repeating across platforms? Is someone in charge of keeping track of what works and what doesn't and issuing guidance?

If you typically ask one question a day and generate 100 comments or responses a week, what can you do to increase that by a factor of 10? Who in the newsroom has suggestions for steps to take that might make that much of a difference?

Asking a question is not a resource issue — it takes two minutes to go to Facebook and ask "what should we cover today?" or "how are we doing?" 

It does take a few more minutes to monitor your activity and make adjustments so that week by week you engage more readers.

The Objective A highly engaged audience that is regularly creating content, a newsroom that initiates discussion, readers who react to news by spending time with your brand. 

Measures of Success Comments, likes, clicks, page views, new questions, discussion threads — and journalists who repurpose those discussions into articles or posts for a website or a print product.

Who's doing it well? Here's some evidence from a postal prompt about what works and what doesn't. If you have not asked a "who should be on a stamp" question, today is a good day. (Short url's included to ease sharing.)

The Indianapolis Star in one day had 17 Facebook likes and about 80 comments on a survey: who from Indiana should be on a stamp? Who will it be? Time for Indiana living legend on postage stamp | Note the large photo of a favorite son.

The AP asked on Facebook and received 96 comments in the first day: They amplified the request with a Twitter prompt that did two important things: directed people to Facebook and seeded the question with some possible answers from top names trending on Google search: Twitter / @AP: Interesting ideas of who belongs on a stamp — Wangari Maathai? Chuck Norris? — are on our Facebook page AP tweet to 500,000 followers had two dozen retweets:

The Tennessean asked on its site and across social media feeds for local living legends worth featuring on a stamp. From the managing editor's Twitter feed @megdowney: I vote John Seigenthaler. @Tennessean. Which living TN legend would you want to see on a stamp?

Seeding the conversation with a few names seems to work. The Des Moines Register drew 50 comments on Facebook on the first day with this prompt:What living Iowan should be on a stamp? The U.S. Postal Service has changed the rules to allow living people to be honored on postage stamps. So — who would be your Iowa choice? (Around the newsroom, suggestions included Hayden Fry, Slipknot, Fred Hoiberg, Shawn Johnson and Captain James T. Kirk.)

A post on the Register's site had a bold call out asking readers to go to the Facebook page to answer: Who do you think should be first living Iowan on a stamp? |

Lauren Wilbert List, a community producer for the Times-Picayune website,, received more than 20 comments when she asked the question: Which living person would you like to see on a stamp?

The LA Times fashion writer set up a survey: Poll: Which living face of fashion belongs on a U.S. stamp? –

There were 89 comments in a day and a half on this Florida news site, and note that the writer included an email address for readers who wanted to add a suggestion without leaving a comment. Does that mean there will be a followup? What living American would you like to see on a stamp? Let us know – St. Petersburg Times

How many news organizations will do more than just collect a few comments? The Postal Service is inviting official submissions. Here are the official stamp criteria from the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee

This is an opportunity to keep the conversation going, to solicit a list of names, to put out a poll, to narrow the list to the top five, to formally submit the names on behalf of your audience, and to report back the status of the request. The requests can be segmented by geography or topic area: who would be your metro area choice? your state choice? who would be your choice from among local sports stars? fashion stars? business stars? civic leaders? entertainers?

Each one of those points is an opportunity for deeper audience engagement. 

What is working for you? 

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Filed under Business models, Crowd sourcing, Social networking, User-generated content

Fall Splendor, Obama and Schools, Heirloom Veggies, Crowdsourcing

Some ideas for social media prompts from newsrooms. Short url's included to make sharing easier.

Fall Welcome

It's fall and these first days of the season are a good time to ask your audience a related question. In Nashville, the paper put together a list and asked for more suggestions:

On Twitter / @karenleeryan: 20 things to love about fall — what is on your list?

On Facebook 20 things we love about fall

President's Back-to-School speech

On Wednesday, President Obama continues his annual practice of presenting a back-to-school speech. His focus has been personal responsibility. Every year, schools discuss if this is a government event that everyone should watch or a political event. Here we go again: Teachers decide whether students can watch Obama’s school speech | The Jamestown Sun |

Will classrooms in your area be tuned to the speech?

From the 2010 Obama school speech (in Philadelphia): "But you’ve got a job, too.  You’ve got to show up to school on time.  You’ve got to pay attention in your class.  You’ve got to do your homework.  You’ve got to study for exams." –

From the 2009 Obama school speech (in Arlington): "none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed." -

Harvest time

Are you running a best harvest contest? Asking readers for photos of giant squash? Helping your audience make plans for next year? Today, Sothebys is running an auction of heirloom vegetables – kale, squash and cabbage:

Are their heirloom garden growers in your area? How are they saving their seeds for next year? What are some favorite meals and recipes that use the harvests?

The Future is Here

Jon Dube summed up the ONA meeting in Boston: Highlights from the 2011 Online News Association conference |

A key point: the future is here (even if it is unevenly distributed). Jon's report includes a great set of links to more resources. "Users rule the web" is his version of John Paton's "How the Crowd Saved Our Company," which includes this: "The Crowd collectively knows more about any subject, city or event we choose to cover than we do." —

Every suggested prompt I send out is a recognition 1. that the crowd is already engaged in a vibrant conversation about important topics and 2. that you can extend and amplify that discussion on your platform under your brand.

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Social networking

Facebook Friday: Tips for Editors and Reporters

Facebook changes The FB world changed this week for you and your readers. The changes are a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to fully understand how to use the extended tool set to serve your community. The immediate opportunity is to be the trusted guide for your readers as they work to understand the changes.

Here are a few tips on some of the new features and on some tried and true tactics for encouraging reader interaction on your page. Short url's include to ease sharing.

Reassurance One of the best comments I saw was not from a media brand, but from a solar power company that I follow because our son Carter works there: @StionSolar tweeted this note about FB:

Facebook has changed it up again, but don't worry the Stion Solar facebook page is still there- check it out

Have you sent a similarly reassuring message to your readers?

How are we doing? A good prompt is a simple prompt: What can we do better to help you? See this from The Daily Pelham: Put it on a schedule that works for you — once a week, once a month — and keep asking. When readers know the door is open, they will enter the room and join the conversation.

Music, Timeline, More Mashable, the social media news site, posted this guide on Thursday: Facebook Changes Again: Everything You Need To Know

Facebook Poll Do you readers like the changes or hate them? Facebook's journalism program manager posted his own poll: Pay tribute to Vadim and run a poll on your Facebook page.

Sports results 46 likes on a Saturday night? Upbeat or downcast, sports news rings reader bells. From the Morning Call, a FB prompt that drew immediate response: The Phillies have captured their fifth straight NL East title with 9-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. More soon at!

History prompt Do you know an interesting tip about Wilton's past?

Local dining We want your pizza stories and memories

Subscribe? Will my fans still "like" me? A quick guide to what it means to subscribe to a Facebook feed, along with a list of people and blogs providing strong news coverage through their Facebook feeds: Want to keep up…

You can compile lists of people you follow, grouped in various categories. Facebook explains: Creating a Subscriptions List

Beyond FB: Jobs Many newsrooms are smaller. Many media company tech shops are growing. To build a career you should know the basics of journalism — verification, accuracy, clarity. To build a brand, more media executives realize you also need developers. See these postings: News Developer Jobs – Google Docs

Is your company building these teams? How can you make sure your brand isn't left behind?


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Reader Feedback, Rosh Hashanah, School Supplies and Social Media Prompts

How to help readers provide feedback, how to help your newsroom honor its own, and a few seasonal tips (short url's included to aid sharing):

Reader feedback Here's a step worth copying. The Washington Post editors have posted an image of A1 with an invitation: Critique the Post’s front page: Sept. 20 – Ask The Post – The Washington Post
This is part of a larger newsroom effort to be more open with the audience, to encourage questions and to provide answers.

Happy New Year Become the platform in your area for families to share holiday recipes. Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown, Sept. 28. The PBS website invites audience questions for an expert. You have an expert in your area. You can also use an openended prompt: what is your favorite Rosh Hashanah dish and recipe? Example: Ask Joan Nathan Your Cooking Questions for Rosh Hashanah! | PBS Food

School Supplies School prompt of the day: Do classrooms have adequate school supplies? In Pennsylvania, one reporter found supplies wanting: Harrisburg teachers lack basics like pencils and paper in classrooms |

How to help teachers: AdoptAClassroom and DonorsChoose are national programs to help individual classrooms. OfficeMax has a promotion that will result in $1 million in school supplies divided among 1,000 AdoptAClassroom teachers on Oct. 4:

Click on state and city on the DonorsChoose search page to find specific requests from teachers in your area. Ask those teachers how they use DonorsChoose, why the district does not meet all their needs, what they would recommend to other teachers in the area who are short on resources.

Photo day Possible questions for your social media sites: What is the most important step to help your child prepare for Picture Day at school? Are the photos a good value, inexpensive or priced too high? Share your own Picture Day memories.Collect any responses for a post. Example (reported without social media): Say cheese: Picture day at school important for some, others say it's just another day |

Newsroom honors Bob Rivard stepped down this week after more than a decade as editor of the San Antonio Express-News. I've long looked up to Bob for his insistence on quality, for courage in pushing for justice after one of his reporters was murdered in Mexico (a story he tells in Trail Of Feathers: Searching For Philip True), and for engaging with readers. Bob also encouraged a newsroom culture of openness and respect. One example: an internal award, named in honor of the murdered reporter, selected by newsroom peers (not managers). E-N honors its own – San Antonio Express-News
Bob, @editorrivard on Twiter, is a class act and great editor. Here's his last E-N column, holding local pols to account

Deploying Staff in a disaster The #ASNEchat this week featured Sherry Chisenhall of Wichita on newsroom organization for the digital age and Beryl Love of Reno on disaster coverage. My post: Covering a Disaster: Lessons From Reno, Part 2

Avoid Scams Help readers avoid scams: Pass along this warning from a great consumer writer, Mitch Lipka (one of many former newspaper reporters pursuing an expertise on an independent blog): Alert: Secret Shopper Scam is Back | The Consumer Chronicle


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Using LinkedIn to Find Stories: Examples Worth Studying

Hewlett-Packard Shows Hazard of Sharing LinkedIn Profiles: Tech – Bloomberg

There are important lessons for journalists in this Bloomberg piece about company security and LinkedIn.

The lead is about an H-P exec, Scott McClellan, who mentioned a new Web-storage initiative in his profile on LinkedIn, revealing previously undisclosed details of Hewlett-Packard’s cloud-computing services. This Bloomberg piece notes the importance of this profile information to competitors and investors. It's also important to beat reporters.

The article quotes Abhilash Sonwane, senior vice president of product management at an Indian cybersecurity firm, Cyberoam, who did a study of social media disclosures by employees at dozens of companies and found signs at one company of a slowdown in orders:

A few months later, a vice president wrote in a LinkedIn status update that he was looking for a new job. When his followers asked why, he responded that the company was about to file for bankruptcy — which it did less than six months later, Sonwane said. He declined to identify any of the companies in the study.

Important for competitors, investors — and reporters who follow the industry.

A local reporter with a geographic beat would be smart to follow the companies and other institutions that have an impact on that beat — a large employer, a hospital — and the executives who are in charge.

ESPN examined a LinkedIn profile of a person in the news and found revealing details. The subject of the article, Ken Caldwell, was a central figure in an investigation into possible recruiting violations. Caldwell told reporters that he did no recruiting. From the article: Ken Caldwell investigated for ties to UCF recruiting, securing commitments – ESPN

On a LinkedIn profile, Caldwell claimed to be a "recruiter [of] NBA players at ASM Sports management" — Andy Miller's agency. Purnell also said Caldwell identified himself within the last year as working for Miller.Caldwell denied presenting himself as an associate of Miller's and says he makes his living as a realtor. When asked about his LinkedIn profile, he said, repeatedly, "It means nothing." On Thursday, the LinkedIn profile had been taken down.

For at least four years, reporters have used LinkedIn to find sources and ask questions. The best way to learn more about how to use LinkedIn, including advanced search tips, is to sign up for Krista Canfield's training sessions.

The next LinkedIn for Journalists training is on Monday, October 10 at 2 pm PT (CA time) / 5 pm ET (NY time). | LinkedIn


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Covering a Disaster: Lessons From Reno, Part 2

Lessons from Beryl Love, @BerylLove, editor of @RGJ, the Reno Gazette-Journal, from Beryl's tweets on #ASNEchat.  Beryl managed his newsroom's coverage of the plane crash at the Reno Air Race. After I posted some lessons from Reno based on my own reading of his newsroom's posts and tweets, Beryl added important details in the chat. I distilled these five lessons from his conversation.

1. Dedicated staff. Beryl wrote: "Staying on top of UGC required someone's complete attention." He added that the best image of the crash came from a spectator (first photo in this gallery). One person focused on user-generated content will help the newsroom find and distribute great content from readers. Beryl added that the newsroom worked hard to contact and confirm the identities of people sending in information but that reporters and editors were "merciless aggregators" when confirmation was not possible.

2. Sign up for CoverItLive. "Using CoverItLive to automate aggregation and publishing twitter updates in real time" was a big help, Beryl tweeted.

3. Social media super users. Know and follow the active social media users in your market. A hospital used Twitter for real time announcements about the number of patients from the disaster who were being treated there. If you curate Twitter lists of active feeds and monitor those lists for news on normal days, you will have that tool at the ready when disaster hits. From @BerylLove: Very interesting to me…

4. Live updates. Use Twitter for fast, live updates during news conferences. Beryl said his team made no effort to link these live update tweets back to his newspaper's website. Break the mindset that every tweet or Facebook post has to include a link back to your site.

5. Plan. Finally, Beryl added: "We are updating our breaking news plan to better define roles." Devote a planning meeting to what roles everyone will play during a disaster. Be flexible, but have an emergency plan that is updated to work with today's social media tools. 

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Search, Social networking, User-generated content

Rich List Rankings, DADT and Local Story Ideas

Follow the Money

Every September, Forbes publishes an update of The Forbes 400, the list of the richest people in America.
Every spring Forbes runs the richest people in the world and every fall, the publisher lists the richest people in the United States. Each list is an opportunity for local coverage.

A year ago, this MLive post was typical of the way local outlets used the material: Metro Detroit boasts 5 on Forbes 400 richest list: Ilitch, Taubman, Moroun, Penske, Ford |

Here is a similar post about the spring list, from a Florida TV station: Central Florida billionaires make Forbes’ richest list.

The Forbes site allows you to search by state. For example, here are the Connecticut people on the 2010 rich list.

Publishing at a time President Obama is pushing his Buffett rule for a minimum tax on millionaires, the Forbes list is also an opening for a local reporter to ask the wealthiest people in your area to weigh in on the tax debate.

Ask, Tell

Starting today, (Tuesday Sept. 20), the US military is open to openly gay service members. The topic can be mined for Facebook and Twitter prompts that will stir conversation in your area. What does it mean to a local recruiter? To students in your area considering enlisting? To veterans groups?

The AP has a strong piece about elite military training: Academies don't expect much change from DADT end 

Even the Pentagon is tweeting about this: Twitter / @DeptofDefense: #DADT is Repealed. 

The Army is there, too: @USArmy Today marks the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." The law is repealed. #DADT #Military

A local reporter can use advanced Twitter search, the hashtag #DADT and local geographical information to find people in your area who are also Tweeting about the day.


 Copy editors in staggered shifts, starting at 6 AM? Dismantling the night rim was just one step Sherry Chisenhall took in Wichita. Read more and ask Sherry questions at #ASNEchat today at noon, Eastern time.
Wichita Eagle: Testing a new organizational model for a digital-first newsroom | Knight Digital Media Center

Hat Tip

Many thanks to Yvette Walker and Steve Buttry, who continued the discussion about the use of Twitter for breaking news stories, based on my note about the Reno air crash and the @rgj Twitter feed.

Yvette: NewsTeach – Disaster plan 2.0 — does it include social media?

Steve: Carl Lavin studies Twitter use in covering Reno air crash « The Buttry Diary


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Filed under Current Affairs, Hyper-local, Social networking