News Leadership 3.0

July 10, 2008

A “newspaper” wins an Emmy

Star-Telegram sports program
receives television honors


I recently learned that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had won a regional Emmy this year from the Lone Star Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for its High School Huddle football program on www.star-telegram.com. The program is part of www.dfwvarsity.com,  Fort Worth’s mega site for high school sports described here. The Emmy-winning show sounded like a great example of a traditional print newsroom learning new skills and applying them to news and information of high interest to the community. Kathy Vetter, Deputy Managing Editor/Multimedia, discusses the show in this guest post:

By Kathy Vetter

Our High School Huddle program originated exactly where it should have - in the Sports department. Our newspaper editor responsible for high school sports floated the idea of a weekly video program, and we then called in our video experts and started talking about who could host the show. We ended up shooting a 12- to 15-minute program every week for 16 weeks. Most of it was shot in segments in our newsroom studio, with the graphics, photos, video clips and music bed added in post-production by our video editor.

We used one main host and rotated in the two expert writers each week, from a pool of about four. These experts cover high schools for the newspaper. The host covered high schools for us for several years, but is now a Cowboys writer. When the playoffs started, we simply went with a host and co-host.

We shot the show using three cameras and a video switcher to output a single video feed. We used an audio board to mix the audio from the three mics. We scripted the show each weekend and gathered the photos and video clips of games on Monday. We occasionally went into the field on Mondays to get fresh video. We shot the show Tuesday morning, imported the file into Final Cut Pro, and had the show edited and ready to post by very early Wednesday morning.

We shot at least one video game of the week each Friday night, usually narrated in person by the same reporter who hosted High School Huddle. Those were edited and posted by early Saturday morning. We then used that video, either from the current week or the archives, to provide the game clips for the Huddle. We set up an online poll that allowed readers to choose the game of the week from the four our staff had selected. That was the game that we shot video of. The poll received around 50,000 votes each week.

Staffing-wise, the director did most of the research and wrote the script (mostly info on cue cards), the high school sports editor helped pick the games we would discuss, the three reporters came in on Tuesday to do the show, and the video editor did the live switching and ran the audio board, then did the editing and graphics work. We got help from the photo desk in finding the necessary photos and running the cameras in the studio, and the high school sports staff helped with research.

The High School Huddle and games of the week are by far our most popular videos. For the five-month period beginning in September 2007 and ending at the end of January 2008, our High School Huddle of Nov. 6 was our highest-rated program, with 214,777 page views. The following week’s Huddle was No. 2, with 191,774. We easily topped a million page views for all HSH and game of the week videos during that time period. And a local car dealership bought a sponsorship for the videos.

The best advice is that this is worth doing. Even if you don’t do a studio show, find a way to take out a camera and shoot a game of the week. Ours were nothing fancy - a little game action, some time with the band and cheerleaders, some standups by our host - but they quickly became viral and they solidified our reputation as the media company that cares about something that’s very important in our community.

Here is a link to High School Huddle.

July 08, 2008

Star-Telegram sports online

Fort Worth’s high school site
attracts users and revenue

Successful online ventures identify and tap into community passions. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has created a megasite for high school sports and is riding a wave of popularly and building revenue. I asked Ellen Alfano, Deputy Executive Editor/Vice President for Online at the Star-Telegram about the site, www.dfwvarsity.com, and the result is this guest post:

By Ellen Alfano

High school football is more than a tradition in Texas - it is an integral part of our culture. The Star-Telegram devotes a lot of resources and space to Friday night football. So three years ago, the Sports department and IS department began working on a super web site that would connect us to those readers who are fanatical about “Friday Night Lights.”

We created a home page for every high school team that we cover - nearly 100 - and have continued to improve the functionality as well as the number of high school sports that are part of the site. The site includes team photos, results, statistics, schedules, recruiting updates, player information, message boards and score alerts, as well as blogs and interactive pages for uploading user generated photos and videos. We have expanded the concept to include girls and boys basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball.

The staff that produces the content for dfwVarsity is a small army of sports staffers, correspondents and employees from different areas of the newspaper. This is the same group that covers games for the newspaper, only they file for the Web site after each quarter of a game and immediately after the game is over. The only additional people we have devoted to this project are programmers. There were a few missteps along the way, most of them involving the programming.  We are currently working on the third version of the software and we have a web developer from IS working with a newsroom web developer to finish the newest version.

Anyone who is considering a site like this needs to have a project leader who understands sports and agate as well as web development. Developers who worked on the site but didn’t understand sports left us with a table structure that was not flexible enough to allow us to adapt it to additional sports.

The one area that has never been an issue is the popularity of dfwVarsity.com. The site had more than 3 millon page views last year. It has also been a revenue-producer from the beginning. We began with a sponsor who paid $12,000. This year we will produce almost $200,000 in revenue.

Last year’s dfwvarsity site, including the videos, brought in $5,000 a month in revenue. The video was not specifically targeted. We quickly realized that was too low. This year, the main sponsorship was sold to Chevrolet for $10,000 a month for 10 months

One feature of the site is a weekly video program during the football season that just won an Emmy. More about that program later this week.

June 17, 2008

Vaulting into video

In Newark, a television vacuum offers
the newspaper a video opportunity

“What do you think, can a newspaper newsroom produce quality web TV?” That’s a question posed by John Hassell on his exploding newsroom blog. And Hassell and his colleagues at The Star-Ledger and NJ.com in Newark are about to find out.

The Star-Ledger newsroom recently launched an aggressive strategy to grow audience with news and enterprise video.

“We want to produce great video journalism in New Jersey and to showcase local video of all sorts, whether it’s produced by our staff or not. New Jersey has been traditionally under served by the local network TV outlets in New York and Philadelphia, and that presents an incredible opportunity to build audience and revenue around video content,” Hassell says.

To get started, the newsroom invested in HDV cameras and intensive boot camp training for 20 veejays in May. Within the first few days of training, participants were producing video and Hassell says the quality is improving all the time.

“We believe quality is key when you’re talking about telling stories with video. Our newly trained veejays are still cutting their teeth, but the level of their work is already quite high and rising every week. The visuals should be compelling, the writing taut and the arc of story clearly drawn. Storytelling is really at the heart of what we’re doing, and we feel we bring a lot to the table. All of that said, there is also plenty of room for short clips where production and storytelling values give way to the simple act of witnessing something newsworthy, fascinating or just plain weird.”

The training also attempted to address and help avoid post-production logjams that many newsrooms have experienced in the rush to video.

Hassell explains in an interview with “Newspapers & Technology:”

“The class teaches students how to bridge the gap between gathering news intended for both video and print distribution, Hassell said.

‘What a lot of people do is when they first get a video camera and are sent out to shoot video they come back with a lot of video and that creates an inefficient post-production result because you get back and have three hours of footage that you have to watch and edit,’ said Hassell. ‘We are teaching people how to think about what they need to shoot for the story they want to tell so that the process of producing video stories’ becomes more efficient.’‘

The newsroom also shifted three print-oriented journalists to manage the new video enterprise: AME/Video, with overall responsibility for video efforts; Video Enterprise Editor, with a mandate to keep the standards high; and a new veejay who becomes a full-time producer and host of the daily noon web cast that launches next month.

You can link to a recent progress report on the effort by Hassell here and to one example of a new veejay’s work here.

Hassell says it’s too early to tell whether the video strategy is paying off.

“We’ll judge ourselves on the quality of our work, the traffic it generates, the revenue it produces and the extent to which we can build and nurture a network of New Jerseyans who are making and sharing video. It’s early to judge the results, because we only recently launched a video platform at NJ.com, but the viewership trends and number of user submissions are encouraging.”

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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