Introducing the Digital Draw: Pick a technology tool, any tool

“Incentive coworkers to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital. Train coworkers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering.”

That was my goal as a member of the Journal Register Co. ideaLab. I’ve steadily worked toward it and had successes. But, with staff turnover, I’ve found we’re often in catch-up mode. Last week, I thought about what I could I do to encourage reporters to think more multimedia in their daily reporting. The days of just producing a story and maybe a photo to accompany it are over. We have to provide multimedia content, meaning adding hyperlinks to previous related coverage, source material and other content that will round out the piece; and, if applicable, a locator map, timeline, photo slideshow, video, audio component and/or host live chat. We also have to take advantage of social media to source a story, generate leads, share material and interact with our audience.

Earlier this year, I asked my staff to learn a new technology tool related to journalism, teach it to coworkers and add it to the ideaLabHeritage blog. In all, we learned about 17. The problem, however, was my reporters didn’t often think to apply what they had learned to their reporting. So, on Friday, I came up with the Digital Draw, a box containing colorful strips of paper with a multimedia offering written on each piece of paper. Reporter Sean Dalton drew “conduct a live chat,” Amy Bell selected “create a Google map,” David Veselenak chose “live tweet a meeting,” James Dickson had “find a story lead on social media and pursue it,” Krista Gjestland chose “create a podcast” and Ben Baird selected “post to a blog.” To lead by example, all the editors had to grab from the Digital Draw, as well. Tanya Wildt drew “create a Storify,” Erica McClain had “create a timeline” and I drew the same tool as James.

Understanding that the digital tool selected may not always complement something each reporter was working on in a particular week, everyone was given the option to pick an alternative from the list. Every Friday, we will talk about what we did, share our successes and talk about challenges, and then stick our hands back in the Digital Draw box and get excited about the next tool and how we can apply it to our work.

So tell me, how would you.get your staff in the practice of producing more multimedia-enhanced reporting? I am hoping since my reporters have learned these tools, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit of applying them and identifying, for each article produced, which digital tool will enhance the piece, whether it’s a locator map to set the scene of an armed robbery, Storify to capture what the audience was saying on Twitter while the reporter was live Tweeting or a timeline to illustrate a sequence of events that led to a particular outcome reported in an article.

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