Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Change-- Not Just for The Vending Machine

Hey folks,

Though I'm off this week to burn some vacation time (in my personal quest to get Janiga to shave his head), I wanted to offer some quick thoughts about the state of flux that the paper and the business are in right now. While it's a hectic, challenging time, I've been extremely encouraged by what I've seen in the last few weeks.

When we asked for volunteers to help us change the city desk structure, we got suggestions from every department and every level. There've been so many good ideas, we haven't been able to condense them all into a workable list yet, but thanks to your feedback, we'll have plenty to work with as we tackle the problem of how to cover the news in this new environment. The news task force has already found things we can implement quickly to change Metro and after a pause this week, we'll be right back at it next week when more of us have used up this vacation time.

In a related note, I went to a day-long training session paid for by the company out in San Gabriel on Monday, along with Semhar, Ansel from LA.com and Josh. Another contingent of Daily News photographers and reporters attended a second training today and I'm sure they heard the same thing we did: video is going to be a major priority for the company in the future, so we're all going to have to think differently.

They were quite specific that this doesn't mean that we're all going to become like TV reporters-- there's much more leeway to have fun with the projects, cover them creatively and try different angles. And while some stories don't lend themselves to video, we're all going to have to look for online components to every story we do. If there's no video, we've got to find things to blog about, audio clips, links to maps and documents. We also have to think with speed in mind-- in the Internet news cycle, time matters just as much as content, so we've got to look at doing better work faster than our competitors and ways to manage the stories once they're put up on the site.

This is a new, unusual world we're in. A year ago, I never thought about video, nor did I worry about getting stories up quickly or promoting them once they went live. Now, we've got to do that on just about everything we produce. It will be a hard adjustment that will take us into unfamiliar territory-- but we can do it.

The response from much of the staff to this period of change has been phenomenal. As Ron rumbles through the newsroom, bellowing "More Cowbell!", you've given it to him. You're producing better content, looking at it from an online perspective and looking at ways to make things better, instead of grousing about how things used to be. That's exactly the attitude we'll need to thrive in the online world.

So thanks to everyone who's lent a hand in recent weeks and let's keep that energy going. The waters may be rough at the moment, but we're still afloat. Keep up the good work.

-Brent

PS - Thanks to all who inquired about the online classes offered by the union-- I hope to have more info for you as soon as I return from vacation on Tuesday. Thanks!

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any truth to the rumor about the Woodland Hills building being sold?

11:39 AM  
Blogger Oxnard St. said...

I haven't heard anything in awhile, but I haven't been asking, either. If I hear anything official, I'll post it here.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... in the Internet news cycle, time matters just as much as content ..."

I know that's true, but it's also pretty scary. It's just a short step away from time mattering just as much as accuracy, fairness, etc.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Oxnard St. said...

I'm sure in the future we'll get to that point, but there's nothing wrong having those factors equal. Where we'd get into trouble is if our zeal to post outreached the importance of accuracy, but I don't see that day ever coming. Just because something's online doesn't mean it's held to a lesser standard than we would any other story.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Where we'd get into trouble is if our zeal to post outreached the importance of accuracy, but I don't see that day ever coming. Just because something's online doesn't mean it's held to a lesser standard than we would any other story."

Unfortunately, we're already at that point. Our city editors are already posting stories directly on the Web, without going through the copy desk, and our reporters are being taught how. Our online updates are already held to "a lesser standard."

So far, the only mistakes have been a few typos and style errors ("Woman found murdered in motel"), but we've been lucky.

And, no, a few typos probably won't get us sued, but it sends a clear message to our online readers that we'd rather be sloppy and fast than take the time to be accurate.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

That's a good point-- I was thinking from the standpoint of factual accuracy, but you're right that presentation and standards of quality shouldn't suffer just for speed. Whenever I see a typo in an online story (particularly one of mine, or a big "UNTITLED" in the headline box), I cringe.

I'm curious if you've got a suggestion for how we handle this. We've got to be able to keep the Web site fresh during the day with new material, but you're absolutely right that we can't ignore the expertise the copy desk brings to the process. Rather than continue this discussion here, would you mind e-mailing me at afropic@hotmail.com with more thoughts? (or, if you'd rather remain anonymous for some reason, leave a note on my desk) It's an important point and I'd like to explore it more. Thanks.

1:39 AM  

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