As I mentioned Monday, I headed off to the University of Georgia’s management seminar for newspaper editors, where I talked about advising and also about how other newspapers covered the Va. Tech tragedy. If you’re interested, I’m including some links and expanded notes from my talk on Tuesday afternoon. I actually didn’t get to cover the second part of the discussion, and I promised some folks that I’d post further notes online. I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I’d like talking about how student news outlets could prepare for a huge news event, but these are some of the notes I had. #
First off, here’s the description of my session: #
3:15 p.m. â€“ Virginia Tech. How others covered on other campuses. What issues were raised? What local connections made? What emergency plans and procedures reviewed and revised to better prepare for campus catastrophe? Followed by summary of resources available through the Center for Innovation in College Media. â€“ Bryan Murley, Center for Innovation in College Media #I spent most of the session describing coverage from the Va. Tech massacre, and how others could localize it. Fortunately, most of the editors in attendance had already done a good job of localizing this national story. As I said in my introduction, “This isn’t a Virginia Tech story, really. It could have happened at any university, which means *every* university needs to localize the story.” (paraphrase) #
So here are a few condensed notes from the UGA engagement: #
There are two lessons you should think about from Va. Tech coverage: #
1. How does my paper handle large events that happen elsewhere? How do we localize? #
2. How would my paper handle a big event like what happened at Va. Tech if it happened on our campus? #
I want to show you some ways people handled the situation at Va. Tech using the web-first mentality that should become a part of your attitude at your paper. Toward the end, I want to talk about how you could handle such a big event on your campus. To do so, I want to suggest that you should incorporate these things into your day-to-day operations. #
Stories there? #
Some schools sent reporters to Va. Tech. They had the equipment, budget and manpower to send people to the campus. But even if you didn’t have that kind of budget, you could do stories from your campus. #
If you send reporters to a big event, expect big reporting. At a big event like Va. Tech, there are going to be hundreds of reporters from major media outlets covering stories. If you’re going to send a reporter and photographer into that type of situation, send them expecting high-level reporting. With the web, I don’t have to rely on your reporting. I’ve got access to WaPo, NYT, CNN, etc. Realize that the effort is going to require support commitment at home. #
(The new EIC of the Daily Tarheel mentioned that you should consider how the coverage of a breaking news event effects your other coverage. For instance, the Tarheel’s news editor went to VT, meaning there were duties that were ascribed to another person who wasn’t necessarily ready to handle those duties.) #
Stories at home #
To cover the story at home, think about the issues that arose. What were they? What are some of those topics that you could cover? #
How do you cover those stories? Just a print story? What about the web? What kinds of home-grown coverage can you provide on the web? #
- Audio Slideshows
- Feedback Forums
- Interview Transcripts
When you do all this great reporting, you need to keep it together in one place. That’s archiving in a convenient location, so I can follow the story along, even if I come back months later. (cf., ICM Va. Tech coverage: link) #
Followup means following the story even after it clears the front page. Think about Eastern Michigan. The president just recently was fired for something that occurred in December. It’s July. Many papers don’t print or print on limited schedules in the summer. The web is the perfect way to stay abreast of that story when the paper isn’t printing. #
Now, to give you some advice about covering this type of event on your campus: #
- Have a plan in place. People have plans in place in case disaster strikes. You should too. Sit down with your staff and figure out who would do what if you had a breaking news event like Va. Tech. What kind of equipment do you not have that you might need (software, laptops, digital cameras). Who needs training to be able to fill in for some work areas. Assume that you won’t have your first line photographers in the office to do slideshows. Who else can do those? Who could shoot video?
- think web first. A tornado strikes your college town early in the morning of a Friday, after you’ve put the final paper of the week to bed. Who’s going to cover it? Where are photos going to come from? Who’s got the video and/or audio. Who’s trained to edit these things? Who’s trained to put them on the web? What’s the process for editing things so they go on the web first?
- Reporters should know how to use a digital point-and-shoot camera.
- They should know how to put stories into your web CMS.
- They should know how to create links.
- They should know how to operate a digital recorder.
- know how to shoot and edit video.
- Shoot and EDIT video.
- Photogs should know how to edit an audio slideshow.
- They should know how to post those things online.
- know how to do slideshows.
- know how to upload videos to sharing sites like youtube.
- know how to interact on facebook, myspace
- know how to do a map using google maps.
- know how to add links to stories.
- should know how to put multimedia onto the web site
- should know how to make links
- publish to web first
Google Maps (Atlas, Mapbuilder)
YouTube, Blip.tv and other video sharing sites #
How to deploy resources? #
The web is not an “extra.” It’s part of the package. You interview people, record it. You collect documents, scan them. You know the web site for the band, put it in your story as a link. Create the habit at the beginning. Work smarter not harder. #
Figure out what you can do with what you have.
Focus on one thing and do it well. So many options now that you can find one to focus on, whether it’s a weblog, audio slideshows, video, social networking, maps … do something well. #
Recruit web-first people.
Look for people on your campus who write weblogs or do their own videos. See if they’d be interested in working for the paper.
Remember that you’re looking forward.
Right now, you’re serving readers and helping students get jobs.
In 3-5 years, when advertising mix shifts, you’ll be positioned to remain the dominant news source for your campus. #
I spent about 15 minutes or so answering questions from students about their online sites. Most of the material I discussed has been covered here previously. Lots of folks had questions about College Publisher vs. other CMS’s. Not a lot of technical talk. One question that struck me was relating to facebook groups. I mentioned that Vanderbilt had a facebook group. I then asked how many other campuses had facebook groups meant to express sympathy with the students at Va. Tech. Most editors raised their hands. I then asked how many of them had linked to the facebook groups from their news sites. I can’t recall seeing a single hand raised. #
The question is: why? I reiterated to the student editors that they have the opportunity to be the “go-to” news source for their campuses. But if they ignore what’s happening online, or refuse to link to other sites, they will end up losing that opportunity. #
It was an interesting experience, and I wish I’d had more time to discuss online news. Thanks to Cecil Bentley for the invite, and the students for making it a great experience. ##