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 muscatinejournal.com 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.