Category Archives: Uncategorized

Evidence Melts in Ice Sculpture Theft: How Media Groups Can Share Great Stories

Drudgereport linked to a CBS Boston report on a Salem Patch story. AOL and HuffingtonPost did not. (Click for a closer view.)

It’s a “Hey, Martha!” story, a story that will make one person at the breakfast table yell out, “Hey, Martha, look at this.” It could go national or global.

If  you work for a Gannett, a Scripps, a Patch, a Digital First Media newsroom or some other company with dozens or hundreds of websites, shouldn’t that be a simple matter of sharing with your colleagues?

How do you help your colleagues know about your great work, re-publish it themselves, or link to it?

Midday on Thursday, I noticed that AOL and HuffingtonPost were missing an opportunity to feature work by a Patch writer, a writer from a division of the same company.

The AOL homescreen has dozens of hedlines in rotation, but right now there is nothing pointing to the story of the melted evidence in the ice sculpture caper. There is “Star Tells How She Overcame Bullies” and “Brothers Inherit Collection Worth $2 million” — each pointing to posts from HuffingtonPost. (By the way, would a better hedline be “Estate Leaves Brothers $2 Million in Comic Books”?) The HuffingtonPost home page has a similar assortment. A quick search for “Salem” and “ice” turns up nothing about this Patch story on HuffPost.

One of the greatest connoisseurs of the “Hey, Martha” genre is Matt Drudge. Every day on he posts tightly written hedlines that link to  big breaking news and political developments, but also a hedline or two pointing to bizarre, funny or just compelling “Hey, Martha” news.  On two other sites, and, readers submit similar posts. Fark editors pick articles to feature. The Reddit community votes for articles. In both cases, the homepages collect eye-grabbing links and can send tens of thousands of clicks to publishers. Fark and Reddit are not sites for readers who take offense readily or who take sarcasm or hyperbole as literal statements of truth. All three sites are good indicators of what stories are stirring conversation and drawing national audiences.

What interests me is the opportunity gap many publishers face, the gap between the national audience a publisher could collect for its own properties and the audience that it actually does collect.  For awhile on Thursday, Drudge linked to a CBS Boston report based on a Salem Patch article (see screenshots). Let’s not debate the merits of the melted evidence story. Assume that a Drudge link, even one that’s up for a short time, is enough verification that this news has national appeal.

Why doesn’t the company that owns Patch, AOL, recognize the value that Drudge sees? Why doesn’t HuffingtonPost, an AOL division that links to almost anything hot, recognize and link to its own company’s original work?

Why does this happen more often than not at other large media chains? Gannett doesn’t have a big portal like AOL, but it does have and the websites of another 80 newspapers.

A Lee paper, the Sioux City Journal, has a story about a chicken McNugget that looks like the portrait of George Washington that is on the quarter. (Yes, you can buy it on eBay.) Should the dozens of other Lee papers each put up a link to it? A quick review of the Lee-owned St. Louis Post-Dispatch site,  found nothing. A Gannett paper, the De Moines Register, does have the AP version of the McNugget story.  That’s the one featured on Fark this afternoon.

Does any of this matter? Is there something you and your company can do about it?

One proposal I’ve made in conversations starts with Twitter. A media company can decide that editors will use a special hashtag and tweet to notify partner sites about news that could be of compelling interest beyond one market. Editors who think they have something that can go big can tweet the hedline with a company hashtag (#LeeShr #GCIShr). Other editors could have Twitter search set to surface those hashtags and hedlines.

If you have video of Jeremy Lin winning the state basketball championship for his high school team or an article about a high school killing a student’s editorial that accuses administrators of a “pro-Christian” bias there should be a way to let the rest of your company — and the world — know about it.

What works in your shop? Add a comment or send me a note to


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Solving Readers’ Problems, Building Audience: The Fafsa Challenge

The process is daunting. Your newsroom can help.

The Chicago City clerk does it: Fafsa Preparation Assistance. A West Virginia foundation does it: College Goal Sunday. Kentucky did it in 19 towns: Sun., Jan. 29, College Goal Sunday.

A newspaper might run an announcement about a workshop, in Muskegon MI, Reading PA or Knoxville TN.

Why not organize a College Financial Aid workshop in your community? You could organize a virtual workshop, soliciting questions on Facebook, Twitter, through your email newsletter and on your website and providing answers from local experts. With a little more work, you could also organize a real-life workshop.

You may be publshing editorials, op-eds and letters about the rising costs of college, a trend Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic labled a “surge of tuition rates and student debt that, for many Americans, is threatening to turn higher education into an unaffordable luxury.”

A reader-focused media company can do more than that.

Some editors may be asking: is this our job — to help families pay for college? Think of a related question: is it our job to provide a resource where members of our community can find information they need to solve their most pressing problems?

Newsrooms deepen community engagement by providing a platform for community voices, by providing information that leads to solutions for community problems and by convening like-minded groups to exchange news and ideas. Would a workshop fit that mission?

In Torrington CT and Winnipeg, Manitoba, newsrooms are opening their doors, inviting the community into the room. The Nonprofit Journalism Hub recently examined these two initiatives in an article: News Cafes and Open Newsrooms.

The Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe wants to find a way to reconnect with a younger demographic as well as become more transparent and accessible to the public. The Register Citizen Open Newsroom Cafe wants to help the community become more involved in the journalism process and let the public use the open newsroom space as a community center for gatherings, discussions, and educational opportunities.

Connect to younger people? Provide educational opportunities? Strengthen communities? What better way than to help families new to the process learn to conquer the daunting forms involved in paying for college.

The basic steps for either a virtual or real-life workshop include: announce the event, find a local expert, announce the event, provide a resource box of links in print and online, announce the event, tell families what they have to provide (a W-2, other financial information), announce the event.

For the offline workshop, you need a room, a way to make sure coffee and snacks are available, a person who will be responsible for stocking the room with paper, pens, pencils, and, if possible, an available copying machine and scanner.

In either case, the project is also a way to generate plenty of content — frequently asked questions, profiles of local experts, list of deadlines, process graphic, success stories of families that have reaped the benefit of completing the application, videos.

Keep a list of all the names, contact information and what your newsroom learned. In 11 and a half months, it will make it easier to do all over again.

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Filed under Hyper-local, Social networking, Uncategorized, User-generated content

New Year, New Carl Lavin Blog

I’ve switched to Carl Lavin: The Business of News.

TypePad has served me well. WordPress is right for right now.

A core reality of how business works is the idea of creative disruption. The more journalists and others in the media business learn about that force and the opportunities it presents, the better it will be for us and for our communities.

07Newsroom, my Typepad blog, seemed to be focused on the future when I started it in 2006. That’s where I will continue to focus. Many thanks to Austin Lavin for urging me to take this step and to Seth Lavin who did the work on WordPress, including migrating all the old content — both posts and comments. You can also get to the new blog with

Shorter items are on twitter @FromCarl.

See you on and off line.

Thanks for reading.

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Praising Newspapers, Praising the Newsroom’s Next Generation: Meet Sara Ganim

Sara Ganim has a police scanner on her nightstand. She is one of those hard-working Millenials who caught the reporting bug in high school, worked for her college paper, wrote freelance pieces for her hometown paper and was an AP intern. Then she joined a newspaper with a reporting staff that might have reached 10 in the glory days but now numbers about six, the Centre Daily Times. One of the smallest McClatchy newspapers, it is edited by Bob Heisse, a skilled veteran with deep local roots and a side passion for rodeos. Continue reading

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Finding Value in Identity: Your Identity

Readers find our work across the disaggregated web. Those who want to learn more about the newsroom that produced the content or the reporter who wrote it have a hard time. That is often true on a newspaper’s website. It’s more true across the web, but Google is doing something about it. So are two very different aggregation sites: and

Example: Alan Rusbridger (Guardian editor) on News Transparency.
Example: Alan Rusbridger on MuckRack.


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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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Your Town’s Daybook: Process as Product

Looking Ahead Weekends or Monday morning are a great time to post a municipal week ahead. What is on the mayor's schedule? What are the most important public meetings? What's are some top agenda items? A newsroom that is on top of this information every week is a newsroom adept at planning. A newsroom that distributes this information every week to readers is a newsroom that understands our process is our product.

At the national level, the White House reporter for, Mike Allen, does this every Saturday (President's week ahead, 12th item down:  POLITICO Playbook)
Lynn Sweet, Washington reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, publishes the information every day: President Obama official schedule and guidance, Sept. 7, 2011.
A reporter in Greenwich CT, Anna Helhoski, helps her readers plan their week, with a look every Monday at the week ahead: Check Out Greenwich's Town Meetings | The Daily Greenwich
Adding a line or two about the agendas or personalities behind the meetings will add even more value.

Back to School Are some families in your area willing to lie to get children into a better school district?  Out-of-district students have been in the news in Ohio and New Jersey:
*Akron mom's felony convictions for school residency lies reduced to misdemeanors |

*Montclair district purges out-of-town students –

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