Category Archives: Current Affairs

My News: Joining a Great Team at

I am excited to be joining Meredith Artley, the managing editor of, just sent this note to the staff:

Everyone, please join me in welcoming Carl Lavin to the team as our Lead Homepage Editor. He will guide the talented group that sculpts one of the most powerful pages on the web.

Check out Carl’s background – he was most recently the national managing editor for Main Street Connect, a network of local sites, where he was point for quality, innovation and editorial guidelines for more than 50 news sites in three states. But wait – there’s more – he was the managing editor of where he drove mad traffic, shaped their social media strategy, and led a team that wrote headlines and stories with voice out the wazoo. Before that he was the deputy managing editor for news at the Philly Inquirer. And he spent some time at The New York Times in a variety of leadership posts, including Washington news editor during the Clinton impeachment and 9/11, graphics editor and deputy metro editor.

He has a reputation for being an inspiring leader who people love to work for and with, an audience-focused editor and an excellent communicator with sterling and swift news judgment.

Carl and his wife, Lauren, are in the process of moving from his home in Montclair, NJ to Atlanta. He starts at the end of the month.

Many thanks to Meredith and everyone else at CNN who helped make this happen. There is already a post on cheesesteak to help a former Philly guy feel at home in Atlanta. Other tips? Add a comment here.


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Social Media Lessons From Muscatine: Start With the Hashtag

Homepage of The Muscatine JournalA global leader’s visit adds a cymbal crash to the rhythm of local news set by vandalismbusiness openings and wrestling tournaments.

For the editor of The Muscatine Journal, Chris Steinbach, the cymbals come together on Wednesday. That’s when Xi Jinping, the Vice President of China and the man slated to be the country’s next leader, makes a return visit to Muscatine, Iowa. Xi’s first visit, as a junior official, was in 1985.

Steinbach posts regular to his blog, the Editor’s Notebook, where a recent item discussed a delegation of Chinese journalists who asked how The Muscatine Journal planned to cover Xi’s visit:

I told them we focus our coverage as intensely as possible on what happens in our community and often pay little, if any, attention to what happens elsewhere in the state, nation and world.

But in this instance, I said, the world is coming to Muscatine and we would work to cover it as extensively as possible. In fact, news about Mr. Xi’s visit will dominate our news columns from today through Thursday. And we will cover it live Wednesday at and via Twitter and Facebook. You can follow, and join, our coverage via the social media by searching for the hashtag #xiiowa.

Fortunately, Steinbach’s staff had a Twitter training session last week. Stephanie DePasquale of the Quad-City Times, another Lee Enterprises newspaper, told Muscatine reporters that it is important to listen to local residents on Twitter. If a musician tweets about a new CD, “that’s something that we might want to do a feature on,” DePasquale told them in the part of the social media session  caught on video.

Training and planning can take care of only so much, of course. One task many large chains don’t seem to do well is to quickly share content that has national appeal. I’ll be watching to see if Lee tries to do that across the scores of media properties it operates. At the very local end, the Muscatine paper, like most newspapers, seems to lack an almanac entry on its own market. What is special about Muscatine? I didn’t quickly find a piece on the Journal’s site that would allow me to skip a visit to an online encyclopedia. (Even the about us page for the Journal went to an error message when I clicked.)

There are many more signs that the Journal staff, led by Steinbach, is doing a lot right. I count these four important steps: 1. starting with the hashtag (reporters seem to be using both #xiiowa and #iowaxi) and the full-scale social media plan, 2. making the newsroom’s local expertise available to visitors, 3. being open with readers about coverage plans through the editor’s blog, and 4. staying focused on what the visit means to Muscatine.

There’s another lesson, for all of us: when a sister-city delegation comes to visit, be gracious to everyone. You never know how important one of those visitors may be 27 years later.


Filed under Current Affairs, Social networking

Buy Nothing or Seek Bargains: Ready for Black Friday

Tips for editors, short url’s included to promote sharing.

The group that provided the idea for the Occupy Wall Street movement is also taking aim at shopping with an annual promotion for what it calls Buy Nothing Day:  | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters This will be the 20th year that the Adbusters group has run its Buy Nothing campaign on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and an annual festival of sales kicking off the holiday shopping season.

Background on the editors of the Canadian magazine Adbusters: Kalle Lasn and Micah White, the Creators of Occupy Wall Street: The New Yorker

Another group of people is also protesting the extraordinary overnight shopping hours and the sales that in some cases will start at 10 PM on Thanksgiving Day. A petition started by one Target worker in Omaha, Neb., now has 130,000 names on it. Many retail workers and their families don’t want their holiday interrupted: Retail backlash over Thanksgiving night openings Continue reading

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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

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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Royal Wedding and Marriage Equality: What 3 Billion People Are Saying

DSC_0069 Marty Rouse, HRC national field director, at the Equality Forum (Photo by Lauren Shay Lavin)

Many advocates of marriage rights for gay couples used the spotlight on the royal wedding to seek attention for their issue. Events in London and  Buffalo, in Australia and Iowa raised awareness and money for marriage equality.

The pomp and majesty of the Friday wedding at Westminster Abbey drew a global audience that many reports estimated at three billion people. From dress (elegant) to tiara (understated), from carriage (historic) to kiss (polite), each detail was dissected intently. The flood of voices and exclamations did much to drown out the few attempts to discern larger meanings in the event.

A day later, in Philadelphia, a panel on national politics at the Equality Forum included advice for those same marriage equality advocates. Use this attention to make the point that marriage does matter, Marty Rouse, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign, told 50 people gathered in a small auditorium at the University of the Arts.

It was a message meant for supporters and there may not have been many reporters in the crowd. Rouse's message, though, could start to resonate as more supporters spread the message and the debate over marriage equality sharpens in 2011 and 2012, with important legal and political events on the calendar.

Yes, Rouse, said, plenty of people will celebrate the passage of civil union legislation allowing same-sex couples dozens of the rights granted to married heterosexual couples. But civil unions are not marriages, he noted. "Millions and millions of people watched William and Kate get married yesterday," Rouse said. "Would they have done that for a civil union?"



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Don’t Be an April Fool; Annual Spoof Warning

Last year, I posted this April Fool's warning:

There is no off season for spoofs. Remember the film team that exposed the low standards of a lot of the reporting about celebrities

If the stories seemed far-fetched, it was because they were part of a series of fabrications about celebrities ‑ made up and fed to tabloid newspapers by a documentary team that wanted to prove that journalists don't check facts.

That was from October.

As March draws to a close, it's worth repeating this warning, a warning I send around the newsroom every year at this time:

The silly season is upon us. Many publications will be running corrections on April 3 for items they fail to see as pranks on April 1. Don’t let that happen to you – or to your readers.

One editor reminded me about a 1998 prank announcement that fooled the FT:

Guinness brewery issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. 

According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, the famous observatory would refer to seconds as "pint drips." 

The Financial Times, not realizing that the release was a joke, broke the news in an article in which it discussed how some companies were exploiting the millennium excitement in order to promote their own brand names.

There are sure to be more examples this year. Have you seen any? Comment below.

Update: The UK started the day early, and in style. Some top 2010 spoofs, from a friend's list:

*Ferrets to deliver broadband to rural areas, Telegraph

*AA to use rocketman to rescue stranded motorists, Daily Mail

*Google launches translate for animals, Google

Funny to read. Not so funny when they are re-told as real news.

That was last year. Every year brings a new type of spoof, and 2011 is no different. That hot, newsy Twitter feed? Think twice, or three times.

A selective guide to fake Twitter feeds:

BP, Rahm Emanuel, Bronx Zoo cobra, Darth Vader.



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