Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Diwali, Local Twitter Followers, Free Flu Shots: Tips for Editors

Suggestions for editors who want more engaged readers. Short url’s included to make sharing easier.

Diwali The Hindi festival of lights starts this year on Wednesday, Oct. 26. From The Times of India:

Diwali, an auspicious religious festival celebrated by the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains with great enthusiasm and excitement that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Spectacular lights, firecrackers, irresistible traditional sweets and sending gifts to dear ones mark the celebration of Diwali.

The Roanoke Times found Indian students celebrating this week at a local university: Fighting darkness with light

In 2008, had this coverage: Greater Clevelanders Welcome Diwali

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Filed under Business models, Crowd sourcing

Phoenix Jones, Open Newsroom, Scanning Photos: Tips for Editors

Prompt of the Day
Does your town need a superhero to fight crime? Make a reference to Phoenix Jones, the self-styled superhero arrested in a paper spray incident in Seattle. Jones's names is at the top of the Google hot search list early Tuesday morning. Here's the rest of the round up of editor tips (short url's includede to make sharing easier).

Open newsroom
Call it budget, sked or newslist – when newsrooms turn process into product and plan in the open, everyone wins: The Guardian has started publishing its news budget on the web, letting readers in on the process. From Dan Roberts, a Guardian editor – Have Your Say:

What if all those experts who delight in telling us what's wrong with our stories after they've been published could be enlisted into giving us more clues beforehand? What if the process of working out what to investigate actually becomes part of the news itself?
It might seem a minority pursuit, but the experience of covering breaking news already suggests otherwise. Like many websites, we are discovering some of our best-read stories are the live blogs that report events as they unfold, often with brutal honesty about what we don't know or hope to find out.

What do we learn? The Guardian business news desk is kicking of the earnings season with a report on Alcoa's earnings and a politician's plan to crackdown on internet porn will be subject to a "reality check." It turns out the hidden plans of a newsroom gain nothing by being kept private.

In praising this step, Matthew Ingram of GigaOm (Memo to Newspapers: Let Your Readers Inside the Wall) says the time for secrecy is over: "Either newspapers develop a more balanced relationship with the people formerly known as the audience, by allowing them to contribute to the process, or they will find their audience has gone elsewhere."

Value of Photos — From Your Archives, From the Police
In Conway, Ark., the Log Cabin Democrat has been scanning and publishing 5,000 photos a month. It organized them into what it calls the Conwaypedia. Another initiative from this Morris newspaper is Faulkner County Booked, which is attracting 300,000 pageviews a month.
These steps are part of the Morris drive to put digital first. A Morris exec, Derek May, posted this more detailed explanation of what the company is doing in an attempt to reverse a 40% drop in revenue and a 75% drop in profits over five years.
Digital first might have a familiar ring: Digital First, of course is the holding company for the JRC and MediaNews Group newspapers, from San Jose to New Haven.
It's also the rallying cry in papers from Seattle to Wichita:
In Seattle Times’ new digital-first newsroom, roles change to ‘creation, curation, community’ | Poynter.
Wichita Eagle: Testing a new organizational model for a digital-first newsroom | Knight Digital Media Center
Making the most of every frame captured by staff photographers and your readers keeps readers engaged. When my hometown paper published a gallery showing the opening of a new fire station, our family was delighted to find this photo of my father: Photo Gallery: Canton's New Fire Station -  One tip: allow readers to add caption material.

Pumpkins, Unicef and Pet Costumes: Halloween Ideas
Who runs the pumpkin contest in your market? Size matters: 1,704-pound pumpkin earns CA farmer $10,224 in Pumpkin Weigh-off prize money:

Unicef Halloween drive is a good peg for a prompt: Are you donating to Unicef this year?
UNICEF's Little Orange Box Goes Digital This Halloween

Favorite pet costumes: has a pet costume roundup:

Have you brainstormed your Halloween coverage plan? Have you been inspired by the Guardian to publish a list of stories your have in the works?

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Current Affairs, Hyper-local, Social networking

Occupy Your Town, OccupyWallStreet: Tips for Editors

Occupy Your Town
Occupy Wall Street is not just about Wall Street. How to track similar protest movements in your town? Look at this list from Occupy Together. The site says there are organizers working in 1,271 towns (now 1,302 towns), including major metros but also smaller towns from San Luis Obispo, CA, to Greensboro, NC, from Allentown, PA, to Springfield, MO.

Twitter is one of the best listening posts. Here is a list, from Listorious, a web company that pulls together guides to related material on Twitter, of many of the Occupy Twitter feeds.

Do a Twitter search:!/search-home
Enter "occupytownname" all as one word, using your town and nearby communities. Example:!/search/occupyallentown

Many communities have seedbeds of anger over high unemployment rates and a sense that immoral financial activity enriched a privileged few while knocking millions of others into poverty. There is an equally strong sentiment that more government intervention or higher taxes will not solve the problem. Are you tapping into the strong feelings on all sides of this issue? Put up some prompts on Twitter and Facebook, with references to what is happening from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale.

A sign that organizers of these modern-day Hoovervilles are planning for the long term? Have they made provisions for toilets, hygiene, and bad weather?

Teens and tanning beds
Now that California has banned anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed, teenagers and parents in your area may have strong opinions on the role of government and the health impact of indoor tanning.
Possible prompts: Should our state ban tanning beds for anyone under 18? Would you allow your teenager to use a tanning bed? California has the highest age limit. Other states have bans for under 14 year olds or for different age groups.

Parent Unions
Parent unions are another California idea that may be taking root in your town. This weekend, the AP ran a piece about a new type of parent group organized to push for fundamental change in local schools. 'Parent unions' spring up in school districts from San Diego to Buffalo, N.Y., pushing for academic reform:
Is there a parent union in your area? Do parents want the ability to force change through petition? What role should parents have in running local schools?
From the article:

Behind the parent empowerment movement is a feisty Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Parent Revolution, which in 2010 pushed through a landmark law giving parents authority to force turnarounds at failing schools through a petition.

Known as the "parent trigger," the California law was the first of its kind in the nation. It inspired Texas and Mississippi to adopt similar laws and legislation is under consideration in 20 other states. Two states have voted down parent trigger bills.

Lee Cowan of NBC Nightly News covered this last month: 'Trigger law' put to the test in Compton, Calif.

Cowan's lede:

On its face, the idea sounds so simple: if a school is persistently failing, give parents the power to change it. But the reality of putting that notion into practice is proving challenging, at best.

In the last two years, California, Texas and Mississippi have passed so-called "parent trigger" laws. In each, the law stipulates that if at least 51 percent of the parents of children enrolled in a school sign a petition, they can trigger change.

Diane Ravitch, a professor at NYU, attacks what she calls a "deceptive scheme" in this letter about the trigger laws, published in the Washington Post.

The experts are solidifying their views. What do your readers think?

Traffic and Real Estate
Readers are always fascinated by traffic and the status of major commercial real estate properties. As the experts of their own realms, they are also vocal. Here are examples from the Centre Daily Times page on Facebook that showed good social media instincts and good reader engagement:
Traffic: A reporter and photographer are on the scene. We'll have updates online. Crash closes U.S. Route 322
Real estate: Wonder why the former A&P has been vacant for all of these years? Today's story provides the background. 
By including Facebook as a conversation platform, the CDT involved readers in the conversation.

Follow the Money
Looking to learn more about money in politics? @OpenSecretsDC Resource Center has guides for beginners, FAQs and more
Much of what is published here for voters is very useful, too, for reporters.

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Filed under Crowd sourcing, Hyper-local