Journal Register Co. ideaLab meeting provides inspiration

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.

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

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