Archive for August 2010

Journal Register Co. ideaLab meeting provides inspiration

August 29, 2010

The presentation Aug. 25 in Yardley, Pa., led by Jon Cooper, Journal Register Co.’s vice president of content, started off with the ideaLab rules. And there was only one rule: There are no rules. This was refreshing to hear and was followed by the ideaLab goals. There were four: play, experiment, learn and teach.

I think I can handle that.

The company’s Digital First vision is that consumers in the company’s markets will choose JRC products for their hyperlocal news and information needs on the media platform of their choice. The mission is to successfully transform the company to the new multi-platform media environment and to become the network core of each of the company’s local markets, providing original and compelling hyperlocal news and information for the benefit of the communities we serve, our employees and shareholders.

I think that’s doable. The key is getting all of our staff on board. This goes back to our goals in the ideaLab of learning and teaching, and the idea is for those you teach to pay it forward. For me, this started the afternoon I flew back to Michigan from the meeting in Pennsylvania. It was Cooper’s idea to have each of us teach someone at work just one thing. I had a webinar scheduled that afternoon about sending out breaking news alerts. A2 Journal reporter Lisa Allmendinger was in the same session. So afterward, I set her up with access to the TownNews Mail List so she could send out breaking news alerts and add her contacts to the e-newsletter mailing list to receive our newspaper group’s headlines, as well. I was a success in that she seemed to understand. The key will be chatting with her again about whether she actually added sources to it or sent out any breaking news alerts.

Lisa paid it forward, so to speak, by teaching Manchester Enterprise copy editor and reporter Jana Miller what she had just learned. Now it’s on Jana to teach someone. And then it’s on to the next thing to learn and share.

At the ideaLab meeting, we each refined what we wanted to do, keeping in mind that we would be playing, experimenting, learning and teaching while using our ideaLab tools — a Netbook, iPad and iPhone.

Before pitching our first “problem,” ideaLab adviser Jay Rosen, a professor at New York University, had each of the reporting staff tell our story. Below is mine:

Tell me your story:
When I first heard about the ideaLab project, I thought:
Great idea, wish I had the time for it
So I proposed:
Then I won and it was like:
I better come up with a plan
OK, since then:
Set up ideaLabHeritage blog and twitter accounts, been sharing links.
Set up workshops at Apple store to become more familiar with iPad and iPhone
Exploring what tools are available: ipadio phonecasts, Scribd to share documents and front pages, iPad and Documents to Go editing on the road
Share resources with group of reporters, online editor, audience, journalism student, ad reps, and have them post findings to blog.
Train everyone in the newsroom how to use the new technology and inspire them to look for new ways to deliver news
So now what I am thinking is:
I am going to explore technology, applications and other ways to reach and engage the audience
What I am really excited about:
Moving the industry forward, improve efficiency, better engage readers and improve interaction with readers
What I am afraid of:
Failure, disappoint, not live up to potential
What I am still struggling with:
Technology in general, working through bugs, exploring apps and what’s out there

After this exercise, I presented my problem, which is as follows:

Michelle’s Problem
How to motivate reporters to use new technologies and tools available, specifically audio, more engaging video, live chats, live streaming coverage and posting stories online on their own. Empower them and motivate them, and encourage them to use the audience to achieve goals.
Incorporate more crowd sourcing to engage the audience and have the audience invested in what we’re doing and looking forward to the results. Also, to encourage more in-depth coverage of relevant issues. Currently, our reporters are doing a lot of short bits, not an in-depth look at a regional issue because of time constraints. Feature an in-depth issue once a month in news and sports.
Writers use crowd sourcing in their reporting, specifically in-depth reporting based on a topic of interest across county/readership area, rather than using same sources to achieve a better story and a more invested audience. The story would take a few weeks to develop and we would use social media to promote our mission, and then the audience is waiting for the pay-off: the story, video, audio.
To get started, video editorial meeting, throwing out ideas for coverage and what is needed to pursue story and brainstorming how the audience could help.
Schedule live chat to seek feedback from audience. (We have never done a live chat)
Invite our audience to offer up sources, questions, photos, links, video, audio with quotes/man on the street, poll question.
Invite our audience to further refine the story idea using Twitter, Facebook and our e-newsletter.
Get blogging partners to promote what we’re looking for, and promote the conversation and then the final outcome.
Measure success to show staff value of crowd sourcing. Measure using information from Omiture, chatter on Facebook, retweets

I have one month to solve my “problem” of motivating reporters and copy editors to use new technologies and tools available, and measure the success. We plan to video our editorial meeting Thursday and Austen Smith, our copy editor and reporter for The View in Belleville and Ypsilanti Courier, has agreed to take on the first in-depth story using the technology and tools I described. Someone else will take on the challenge next month, and this will become a regular part of our routine at Heritage Newspapers’ Western Region publications.

And after a month, I imagine it’s time for a new “problem” and plan of attack. If you have any suggestions, I welcome them. Please post them as a comment on this blog.

Check out our Digital First Industry Trends document presented at the meeting by Arturo Duran, ideaLab & Project Thunderdome presented by Jon Cooper, Betsy Morgan’s presentation and crowd sourcing information.

Here are a few videos from the meeting.

Check out what another ideaLabber had to report.

Ideas flowin’ in PA

August 25, 2010

I am in the lobby of the Radisson waiting on my Michigan cohorts on barely four hours of sleep after a dinner party last night to kick off our ideaLab meeting in Yardley. It’s not that the dinner went terribly late or the after party at the hotel bar made for a late night. It’s that the dinner party conversation was so stimulating and invigorating that I had all kinds of ideas flowin’ that I didn’t sleep very well.

So at our meeting, to be held this morning at JRC’s corporate headquarters, I may be a little sleep deprived, but excited to hear more about the ideas shared last night as a teaser for what’s to come today.

I’ll report back this evening.

Signing off for now from my iPad, which makes for very easy blogging, especially when the Wi-Fi is free. Thanks Raddison!

What a Smart Pen

August 23, 2010

I was recently able to use a SMARTPEN that our Publisher Jim Williams bought for us and not only did it make my job easier it added an extra fun element to the story that it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

The Smartpen writes on special paper and enables you to copy your notes onto the computer and translate them into text – Time Saver. It is also capable of recording audio as you write and saving that on the computer as well.  

It was wonderful to be able to record audio while writing and be able to go back and make sure you got it right and  verify/ pick up anything you missed.

Also, unlike my handheld voice recorder, recording on the Smartpen was better because it loads directly on the computer and is easier to navigate and the speakers play in both ears and not just one as the voice recorder does.

The writing translator on the Smartpen is very good, especially since my handwriting wasn’t the best. Again – it was nice to have your notes in a text format and not have to go over them twice – doing double work.

The Smartpen also enabled us to get some great audio we wouldn’t have otherwise had. The story I used it with happened to be perfect for this experiment. Check it out here.

The Smartpen enabled me to walk around and write like I normally do, but use technology and make my job easier and story better at the same time. WIN!

The Smartpen was a good alternative to the Netbook because you can’t stand and follow people while typing on a Netbook like you can with a pen and paper.

Rewards come to those who innovate

August 20, 2010

I had the pleasure on Thursday of rewarding one of our employees with Heritage Newspapers’ STAR Award. I nominated him, in particular, for his efforts to introduce ipadio, which allows reporters to record audio using their telephones and incorporate it in their stories online. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to visit the ipadio website.

Here’s what I read during the presentation by Publisher Jim Williams at our office in Saline.

Daniel Lai, copy editor for The Chelsea Standard and The Dexter Leader, has been awarded Heritage Newspapers’ STAR Award for his dedication to the communities he serves and for taking the initiative to explore new technology to help the newspapers better serve readers. Daniel discovered ipadio, which allows reporters to broadcast from a phone to the Internet. He has incorporated these “phlogs” in news stories, complementing his reporting along with videos, and developed a teaser to promote the audio interviews in print. He plans to train all of the staff at Heritage Newspapers’ Western Region group in use of the technology.

Daniel’s hard work paid off for him last December when he was promoted to his current position, in charge of two newspapers in the Heritage group, after serving as an editor of The Manchester Enterprise for 2 1/2 years. He has continued to show his strong commitment to the newspapers by not only editing all of the content for both publications, paginating pages, uploading the web content, blogging and promoting the newspapers on social media sites, but also covering council meetings, writing features and shooting local video, along with posting phlogs.

There’s no doubt Daniel’s use of technology, which included covering President Obama’s speech at the University of Michigan graduation earlier this year, in which he tweeted throughout the event and maintained a mobile blog, will continue to set an example for the entire company and provide inspiration as the company moves forward with its digital first philosophy.

There’s also video.

By the way, Daniel got a $100 gift card and a plaque.

Lovin’ me some Scribd

August 14, 2010

I was in a panic a few weeks ago to post a sketch on our website of a suspect sought by Milan Police for exposing his private parts to a child. The problem was that the sketch came in pdf format and I didn’t know how to convert it into a jpg, the format I needed to upload it to our website. So, I asked for help from our online support team at the Journal Register Co. headquarters. Leslie Wenzel suggested I visit and use it to get an embed code, instead of converting it to jpg. At the time, I was on deadline and under the gun, and wasn’t very interested in learning something new. I begged for her help and she did it for me, providing the embed code. But she also, wisely I might say, ordered me to sign up for a Scribd account the following Wednesday after deadlines. Out of guilt from having to seek assistance and fear for what Leslie would do if I didn’t, I signed up that Wednesday. And I am glad I did.

Since then, I’ve used Scribd to upload a huge list of 4-H Youth Show exhibitors and winners from Washtenaw County, a sketch and flier of a suspect wanted for an assault, and a news release from police about a traffic advisory for the filming of a public service announcement near Saline.

The items I posted may have otherwise never gotten published, but using Scribd made it a lot easier. I didn’t have to convert, format or edit anything, as those 4-H documents, in particular, are very long and would have taken hours to perfect. And then there’s the space issue. There probably wouldn’t have been enough room in the print product, but space online is infinite. I was able to share the information quickly via Facebook because you can link Scribd to your Facebook account, and I also used the embed code in a brief for our website.

I also used Scribd to entice Facebook fans of the A2 Journal to get the print product by uploading an early page that was already finished in pdf format to tease the Aug. 19 edition. The page, our Second Front, produced by Joe Gray, looks amazing. Anyone who enjoys a beautifully designed page with full color should be interested in seeing more of the newspaper as a result.

Scribd not only provides another avenue for sharing the news and enticing readers with our printed pages, but it offers access to government documents and other information. Check it out and see how it can help you do a better job, reach readers or at least provide an alternative when you’re in a pinch.

A suggestion from Jon Cooper at JRC:
A tip for using Scribd … use their embed function and put the pdf back on your site. Was looking at your FB link to the beer page and noticed the link drives to Scribd.

When we used Scribd at NHR and during BFP we encourage people to use the embed function so you retain the traffic. Linking to Scribd gives Scribd the page views. If you drive folks back to your site(s) then you get the benefit of the page view, the unique visitor and the time spent on site.

If you’re already doing that on other links then please just help spread the word so others do it too.

We want to reap the benefits of all the work our folks do.

See you soon.


Working on the go using iPad

August 11, 2010

You can juggle personal time and work responsibilities while on the go using the iPad and, in my case, Documents to Go. While getting my hair colored today and waiting for it to process, instead of reading celebrity gossip magazines, I was productive, editing about eight articles for our next edition. It felt good to be so efficient as I e-mailed myself the files. If the salon had wi-fi, I could have probably uploaded them directly to the website. I plan to experiment with that later tonight, using my wireless router at home.

Live from my iPad

August 9, 2010

Well, it took the entire weekend and the help of three friends mixed with some effort on my part, and here I am posting live from my iPad.

And it wasn’t without a few tears resulting from technical problems mixed with frustration, hunger and sleep deprivation left over from covering the primaries until 4:30 a.m.

All I can say is that it’s good to have techies and Apple addicts for friends.

I’ve got TweetDeck up, FlipBoard installed, a dictionary app, ABC News, AP, shortcuts to my blogs, Facebook, and e-mail set up. Now that the basics are taken care of, I can start experimenting and exploring.