Thursday, April 12, 2012

The nitty-gritty-dirty of my IdeaLab project


This is more information than any normal human could ever enjoy, but for the wildly insane and easily excitable among us, here is the details of this project. 

What’s a modern newsroom? What’s a modern journalist?
            * I want to create a new “Instant News” beat, taking the newsroom (camera and keyboard) into the community. For 10 hours every week, I’d capture more faces and events than ever before, sharing it live online.
             * To increase reach, I’d collaborate with five community “reporters” representing different demographics, who I’d meet with weekly to brainstorm.
            * As their “mobile community editor,” I’d empower them to blog and take photos, the best of which we’d upload on my existing Tumblr, social networks and blogs, as a constant collage of different perspectives.
            * I’d explore how to thrive without a physical newsroom and share findings on a “Modern Lois Lane” blog for other reporters.


The goals:
            * Build a stronger community presence and hype about the newspaper.
            * See how far we can push journalists in doing a high-quality job that’s better tailored to our fast-paced reality. And in that, fill in the major holes and provide more comprehensive coverage of important beats in an understaffed newsroom. 
            * Challenge my own profession. With emerging technology, professionals are being upstaged by amateurs. We need to figure out how to continue to tip this scale over. In doing do, we won’t be putting ourselves out of a job, just amplifying our work and providing a bigger microphone for the community.

Additional questions to consider:
My newspaper is not unique that it has a greater workload than ever and a smaller staff. This means reporters need to do their jobs smarter, better leverage free information (interns, community contributors) and evolve to accommodate this new environment. So how do we do that strategically?
Plus, could a virtual newsroom, if properly executed, save newspapers overhead money, while creating a stronger community connection?

This photo is obviously staged because I am terrible at returning phone calls.
By Hollywood Calling.


Execution plans:
This project will have four phases, each broken up into approximately three-month chunks, with the goal of total completion in one year.
Prep phase (March):
Get rest of equipment, learn the new technology, figure out the best apps, meet with IT department, get parking passes for CU and downtown, determine several remote “home base” locations with solid wifi, set up Tumblr, set up blog, get blog pic.
 
Phase 1 (April-June 2012): Create a features Instant News beat
Goal: Filling in the immediate holes in my department is most imminent and seamless, because I can fold it in with my current reporting duties.

Steps:
1. Identify current holes in coverage, in collaboration with other editors. 
2. Create a plan to fill those holes, potentially a new weekly feature (with a recognizable name) to run in Life&Arts. This may include a standard fill-in-the-blank or Q&A style reporting format that is easily replicated for other reporters/interns and highly efficient in production. (See current Workout of the Week format.)
3. Set aside one hour every Friday to budget and set up the following week’s expected coverage, but remain flexible.
4.  Begin working remotely every Thursday, aiming to cover three-five events daily at the beginning, ultimately working up to one per hour, if possible. This includes copy, photos and video.
5. Upload stories immediately online, either under a special section of the newspaper’s website, onto my current blog or onto a new blog. All stories are available for re-pub in print, as needed.
6. In addition, revamp the “As Seen on Pearl Street” feature, which is quirky pictures of people in our weird town with short cutlines. This may be its own Tumblr account and/or connected with a FB photo gallery or my current blog/Twitter. Work on promoting interest in this, which will offer expanded coverage in the next phase.
7. Set up “Modern Lois Lane” blog following my journey in this experiment, to be updated every Friday morning, linking to my various endeavors of the previous day and talking about what worked and didn’t and what I learned in a quirky, humorous way. Market: Other reporters and people who care about improving the future of reporting.

Metrics:
I will measure my success by the following (minimum):
- Producing three to five extra short articles per week.
- Sharing three Tumblr photos per week.
- Posting one Lois Lane blog article per week.
- Improved social media presence, in general.
Weekly schedule should look somewhat like this:
9-5 p.m. Thursday: Bouncing around town covering different events, including a visit to the Pearl Street Mall every week. 8 hours.
9-10 a.m. Friday: Blog about the previous day’s experiences on Lois lane. 1 hour.
10-11 a.m. Friday: Plan the next week’s budget. 1 hour.
Total hours: 10

Phase 2 (July-September):  Enhance the existing Instant News beat via a collaboration with five community “reporters.” Add the “mobile community editor” tag to my job description.
Goal: By now, I will be in the rhythm of reporting remotely, and I will also know my own personal limitations. The goal during this phase is to figure out how to leverage a small, active group of community members to provide story ideas, inside information and eyes and a voice where I cannot be available.
Steps:
1. Identify, with the help of other editors, five important, underserved areas of coverage where we could leverage community point-people. Example: Seniors, visual arts, music, teens, ranchers/cowboys/4-H, Hispanic-Latino/diversity, GLBTQ, nightlife, Naropa University, dance.
2. Solicit five strong candidates to work with. Meet in person once but after that, set up weekly check-ins (using chat, Skype, a FB group or some other TBD app) every Friday morning for one hour before I blog on Lois Lane. 
3. Weave the community group’s best story ideas into my already existing Instant News coverage, to enhance our connection with the community.
4. Solicit photos and short write-ups from the community group members, and run the best on our existing Tumblr, social networks and blog.
5. Explore what works and doesn’t work with this small community group, evolving as needed, and blog about it on the Modern Lois Lane Blog to share with other reporters.

Metrics:
I will measure my success by the following (minimum):
- Touch base with community reporters once a week.
- Write three to five short features articles per week.
- Publish two community reporter submissions online per month.
- Share three community photos and three of my own photos on Tumblr per week.
- Post one Lois Lane blog article per week.
Weekly schedule should look somewhat like this:
9-10 a.m. Thursday: Plan the next week’s budget. 1 hour.
10-5 p.m. Thursday: Cover events around town. 7 hours.
9-10 a.m. Friday: Blog about the previous day’s experiences on Lois lane. 1 hour.
10-11 a.m. Friday: Meet with community reporters. 1 hour.
Total hours: 10

Update: This phase has changed. 
Phase 3 (October-December): Expand the Instant News Beat beyond the features department.
Goal: Continue and build on phases 1 and 2 by expanding coverage.

Steps:
1. Work more closely with the City Desk editors at my newspaper to add stories they would like covered to my Instant News coverage.
2. Work more closely with editors at our sister newspapers in Boulder County, better collaborating story ideas and sharing my stories with them to further expand reach.
3. Consider adding to or rotating the community group to keep perspectives fresh and continue evolving the system.
4. Continue Lois Lane blog.

Metrics:
I will measure my success by the following (minimum):
- Touch base with community reporters once a week.
- Write three to five short features articles per week.
- Produce one short story outside of features per week (business, city, sports, education).
- Publish two community reporter submissions online per month.
- Share three community photos and three of my own photos on Tumblr per week. 
- Post one Lois Lane blog article per week.
Weekly schedule should look somewhat like this:
9-10 a.m. Thursday: Plan the next week’s budget. 1 hour.
10-5 p.m. Thursday: Cover events around town. 7 hours.
9-10 a.m. Friday: Blog about the previous day’s experiences on Lois lane. 1 hour.
10-11 a.m. Friday: Meet with community reporters. 1 hour.
Total hours: 10

Phase 4 (January-March): Replicate. Repeat. Expand.
Goal: Work toward creating a replicable system that can be continued when IdeaLab ends.

Steps:
1. Teach the Instant News system to at least one intern, if not more, to better utilize our interns this semester. Ideally, now I would have a five-person community group and a small intern team (or freelancers, budget allowing).
2. Now that I have solid systems set up, consider working remotely full-time for one week at a time, and incrementally more, to experiment and see if it is a realistic, cost-saving solution in the longer term.
3. Possibly: Transition more time from writing and into editing/inspiring, so my one-person Instant News beat could potentially grow into a larger team covering even more ground.  

Metrics:
I will measure my success by the following (minimum):
- Work remotely for one full week at a time, once a month.
- Touch base with community reporters once a week.
- Touch base with one intern once a week.
- Write three short news and features articles per week.
- Edit and publish online three to five short articles per week produced by the intern(s) and community reporters (making the total stories per week at least six).
- Share at least six photos per week on Tumblr from a variety of sources.
- Post one Lois Lane blog article per week.
Weekly schedule should look somewhat like this:
9-10 a.m. Thursday: Plan the next week’s budget. 1 hour.
10-11 a.m. Thursday: Meet with intern(s) and work on intern stories. 1 hour. 
11-5 p.m. Thursday: Cover events around town. 6 hours.
9-10 a.m. Friday: Blog about the previous day’s experiences on Lois lane. 1 hour.
10-11 a.m. Friday: Meet with community reporters. 1 hour.
Total hours: 10

Obstacles with this project:
1. Making the time to do this.
Solution: I will dedicate all day on Thursdays to IdeaLab so I don’t get sucked into other projects. I will not even come into the office. Then, before coming into the office on Fridays, I will spend one hour blogging and one hour meeting/communicating with the community group.

2. Not reinventing the wheel, and learning from others who have tried this.
Solution: Communicate with others and ask them questions.

3. Keeping communication solid while working remotely.
Solution: Check in with newsroom every Thursday morning with my plans for the day and check in again mid-afternoon to report how it went.

4. Either getting stuck in a rut or overshooting my capabilities.
Solution: Evolve these plans and metrics constantly! Don’t be afraid to scrap everything and start over if it’s not working.

No comments:

Post a Comment