Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top 10 Tips to Strengthen Your Newsroom

Anna Ortiz 
Ball State University

Some of the best advice comes from the ones who do it every day. Take a look at what the nation's top editors, attending this year's national APME conference, say are ways to improve your newsroom.

1. Enhancing the story through multimedia. Danny Gawlowski, photo/video editor of The Seattle Times, says text and visuals should not compete but enhance each other. Gawlowski pointed to how his newspaper covered ocean acidification in the Pacific Ocean using a web page to tie in several story elements. His advice: Tell good stories with good tools. Consider how you can make the experience immersive. Combine multimedia elements for a single experience. 

2. Work with what you've got. Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said his newsroom has lost about half of its staff in the last six years. Despite downsizing, the newspaper has won three Pulitzer prizes in that time. Pick what you do well and let go of what you don't provide exclusively, he says. Everyone has limited resources. Pick your shots.

3. Have leaders who think ahead. Kay Coyte, The Washington Post managing editor, said having an owner who has deep pockets and out-of-the-box thinking doesn't hurt. But even big newsrooms need to learn how to move more nimbly to keep up with technology and not be distracted by fads. Be ready to use all platforms, even if you don't know what that platform is yet.

4. Be an investigative newsroom that digs deep. Good, old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting resonates with readers. Boil down the story and offer up strong analysis, advised Coyte. Dig into complex issues that are important to everyone.

5. Embrace social media. Jeni O'Malley, Associated Press Indiana news editor, said she sees social media setting media companies apart in breaking news. There's a lag time between when a reporter leaves the scene and the news is posted. Don't wait. Post early and often.

6. Be the source of breaking news in your community. Linda Negro, Evansville Courier & Press managing editor, says be indispensible. Break news and present it in different ways so readers have a choice how they consumer the information. 

7. Keep up with the community. Listen to what readers want, advises Negro. She said the Evansville Courier & Press is striving to be a community source for what's going on in local education, events and other community news. A newsroom can't just break news, she says. They have to be the pulse of the community.

8. Make news easy to understand. Make the news as digestible by analyzing complex topics. The reader should not have to read 16 inches into the story to know what the story is about, Coyte said. Make it easily understandable to the reader.

9. Keep coaching. Virginia Black, senior writer and writing instructor of the South Bend Tribune, says many newsrooms have cut training across the board. When the level of work rises in one work group, it will in others. 

10) Encourage adaptability. Jeff Knox, director of photography at the Daily Herald, a newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., says cross training is essential in today's newsroom. He says writers should be trained in photography and photographers trained in writing. 




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