News Leadership 3.0

November 18, 2008

The Eagle’s ‘online first’ copy desk

In Wichita, editors vet online stories before the line editors do

After I wrote about the tension around the copy desk in times of digital transition, I heard from Michael Roehrman, deputy editor/production at The Wichita Eagle, about that news organization’s efforts to integrate its copy editors into its online efforts (Editors from The Eagle participated in Knight Digital Media Center’s annual leadership conference in July and I periodically query participants about newsroom issues and strategies.)

imageRoehrman described a three-step process that has given copy editors the lead role in vetting stories for the Web:

1. Reporters send breaking news for the Web directly to a copy editor, bypassing the line editing desk.

2. Copy editors immersed themselves in search engine optimization techniques.

3. Most of the 10 copy editors are individually responsible for overseeing a portion of the main Web site, sites such as

“The traditional process of reporter-line editor-copy editor doesn’t lend itself well to the urgency of getting breaking news on the Web. So, the first thing we did was eliminate the line editor from the process. The thinking here was that accuracy and eliminating potential libel were greater concerns, so copy editors are the ones to work reporters’ copy and then post the items. Line editors can go back into the story and work their magic after it’s online,” Roehrman said in an e-mail.

“We also gave all copy editors access to the online publishing tools system. This authority allows them to go right into the code and fix any errors they spot. An area where this is particularly helpful is cutlines. The system we have uploads the photographers’ cutlines, which are embedded in the photo files they send, and they are often not everything they should be.”

I asked Roehrman about the inevitable challenge of changing culture and practice.

“The biggest initial challenge, particularly among our more-seasoned editors, was one of perception; a close second was time management. The first was overcome by consistently reinforcing the idea of one job but multiple platforms and pointing out the professional advantages of having experience publishing different ways. With copy editors, you can never underestimate the appeal of learning something new.  I’m still delighted that my editor with the most seniority - he’s been in the business for more than 30 years - was the one who embraced the changes with the most enthusiasm.

“As for time management, that was a more gradual process. One breakthrough was in the realization that reverse publishing eliminated the need for redundant copy editing. In other words, if an article was already edited for the Web, considerably less time needed to be spent editing it for print.”

The Eagle has 10 copy editors, including Roehrman.  The workload?

“It sounds like a lot, and it is. The trick, however, was that everything was phased in over the past couple of years—some of the tasks started out as goals. The most important thing is that each member of the desk is fully behind both platforms. They embrace the changes we’re going through and are excited about the possibilities ahead.”

So far, the approach is working.

“As far as I’m aware, there haven’t been any repercussions from our method of online editing. Most in the newsroom realize the importance and value of what copy editors do, so they’re in agreement with the process. When I’ve spoken with editors at other papers, they’re amazed that we’ve adopted this philosophy. To me, it’s a logical idea. And yes, it’s quite empowering.”

Efficiency and empowerment. What a combination.

What’s your formula for integrating your copy editors into the digital mix? What’s working in your newsroom? Please share tips and ideas in the comments.

September 05, 2008

Weekend reading

Links: SEO, management, hurricane video,
and a fresh take on new roles in the newsroom

—Knight Citizen News Network has a module on search engine optimization.

- Poynter’s Jill Geisler offers “Five Myths About Managers.”

- Stan Tiner in Biloxi, Miss., (via Howard Weaver) describes his newsroom’s foray into video for Gustav.

- Recent journalism graduate Nick Rosinia offers tips for job-seeking graduates (via Mindy McAdams). Share this with your copy editors.


August 26, 2008

SEO and keywords

Find their keywords,
and they will come
What’s your search strategy?

Powerful as “search” has become on the Internet (think Google), “search engine optimization” still remains mysterious territory to managers of some news sites. The Bivings Report has a fairly simple explanation of SEO and the importance of keywords in “SEO Basics.”

Here’s a summary:

Search optimization techniques to improve content visibility center on use of keywords that users are likely to employ in their searches. The key to key words is figuring out and using (in headlines, tags, text, etc.) words or phrases that someone searching for content that you have on your site will use in her search. Simple example: “Restaurant” is probably more widely used than “café” or “eatery”. But there are a lot of restaurants, so “French restaurant” or “Thai restaurant” or “‘Name of neighborhood’ restaurant” might fare better in a search. Or “pizzeria” might do better than “pizza restaurant.” Or… that’s the mystery.

This chart shows how the spelling of “barbeque” might affect search:


Your Web site’s traffic analytics program is one place to look for keywords people are using to find your site.

“SEO Basics” offers a handy list of free services to help you figure out the best keywords:

Google: Suggest and Adwords’ Keyword Traffic Estimator Tool and Trends

Microsoft: AdCenter Keyword Forecast Tool

WordTracker: Basic Keyword Suggestion Tool

KeywordDiscovery: Basic Search Term Suggestion Tool

For more, check out the full report.

What’s your formula for keyword success? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

August 07, 2008

Upwardly, outwardly mobile

Poynter’s Biz Blog features
a mobile news startup in Dallas

Rick Edmunds has a good overview of the Pegasus News, a new mobile service in Dallas-Fort Worth. Take a look at it here. At a glance, it seems to have a lot going for it: simplicity, phone-centric information including restaurants, events, movie times and bar happy hours. Users can add content as well. Check out Your Neighborhood and The Daily You.
With the growing popularity of mobile media, Pegasus seems like one model for news organizations who want to own mobile in their local markets. What’s your mobile strategy?

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

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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