Newspapers Discuss Online Media At NC Press Event
From Staff And Wire Reports
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
RALEIGH - Last week during the NC Press Association Winter Institute, online newspaper managers and editors discussed how papers can take advantage of online video, audio, and other techniques to deliver news to their audiences over the Internet.
The NC Press Association Winter Institute event and awards dinner drew over 500 journalists to Raleigh [see separate story] and in workshop sessions, journalists could learn how to hone their skills.
One of the sessions, entitled "How To Become A Digital Journalist" focused on concrete examples of newspapers that publish on Internet using new media tools such as online video, audio, blogging, and other features.
Speakers at the session included Lisa Smith, the online manager of Bluffton Today in Bluffton, South Carolina; Eric Frederick, the managing editor of Raleigh's powerhouse daily News & Observer; and Randall Gregg, the editor in chief of the Raleigh Chronicle newspaper.
Bluffton Today: Online + Print
First to speak to the audience was Lisa Smith, the online manager of Bluffton Today, a hybrid online and print newspaper that is delivered daily to every single home in the town of Bluffton, South Carolina near Hilton Head.
The print newspaper is delivered for free as a TMC (total market circulation) and is also readable online through BlufftonToday.com in a digital version. Smith said that the newspaper had partnered with a company called Wehaa to make the digital version, which looks exactly like the newspaper.
She added that the print paper drives traffic to the online site and vice versa and content can flow in either direction.
"Some of the content you post on BlufftonToday.com may find its way into the Bluffton Today newspaper, the revolutionary new, colorful free daily that is delivered to homes throughout the Bluffton area," says the newspaper's website.
In addition to a digital version of the paper, other areas of the website have user-submitted photos, classifieds, videos, events, and also blogs.
A member of the audience asked if user comments or blogs were moderated or checked for such items as questionable words and Smith responded that they have a special filter that checks for offensive words. Blog entries could also removed if they weren't appropriate, she said.
The free daily newspaper was started in December of 2005 and is owned by Morris Communications.
News & Observer: Moving To 24 Hour News
Also speaking at the workshop was Eric Frederick, the managing editor of newsobserver.com, the website of the News & Observer daily newspaper in Raleigh.
As Frederick pointed out, the News & Observer was one of the first newspapers online, with its former Nando.com website leading the way as a one-time separate entity, putting news, sports, features, and more online in the early 1990's.
The newspaper has a dedicated team of journalists who put stories online as they happen, but he added that if stories are part of a print reporter's beat then they typically cover them.
Unlike in the past when the paper had a daily news cycle, Frederick said they now very rarely hold back on any news item to save it for print and the newspaper strives to go ahead and post breaking stories online as soon as possible.
The important goal is to get news of interest to the public as soon as possible, he added.
In addition to putting video, audio, blogs, and also photo slideshows, Frederick said the newspaper's website is moving towards a 24 hour operation with an unending news cycle that will allow updates throughout the day.
As it stands, Frederick said that there is a short news gap in the early hours of the morning when the website is not staffed, but that the newspaper is looking to close that gap within a short time.
As a result, the newspaper is hoping to truly move to non-stop coverage around the clock.
The Raleigh Chronicle: Digital Tools
Raleigh Chronicle editor in chief Randall Gregg tried to impart some "nuts and bolts" information to the newspaper journalists present and to also go over some of the tools used to gather news at the Chronicle out in the field.
Gregg went over new equipment such as broadband telephone PC cards that allow Internet posting anywhere within reach of a cellular phone tower.
Before, journalists had to find a wi-fi signal or go back to the office but with new broadband "Internet anywhere" devices, journalists can post stories out in the field, as it happens.
In addition, Gregg said there are several software programs or services that help journalists to post stories quickly to newspaper websites, as well as e-mail programs that can send out newsletters or "newsblasts" out to readers.
Gregg also went over some of the audio and video technology available that was not around even just a few years ago, including handheld video cameras that can shoot TV quality videos.
Videos that can be quickly edited and posted online can be a useful tool for newspapers to show the news as it happens.
"Reporters are going to be there reporting on the news anyway, so why not get some video?" said Gregg.
In addition, audio devices can record interviews that can be posted online as MP3's, which can supplement text coverage on the newspaper's website.
Gregg added that most of the technology being used is fairly inexpensive, but that for whatever reason, newspapers have sometimes been slow to utilize them.
"The message and important information for the reader is the same, whether it's in print or online," said Gregg. "We're glad to see both the NC Press Association and its members embrace new media."
"It was an honor to speak at the NC Press workshop and we're glad to see that so many newspapers are interested in getting their message across to NC readers through new technologies that can be very efficient," he added.
Advertising: The Big Question
One question that hadn't been answered by the end of the session is how to get advertisers to move their dollars online in addition to print media.
One newspaper, the Mountain Times, which has several editions in areas around Boone, NC has been trying 30 second commercials on its website with some success, said editor Jason Reagan of the newspaper. The commercials are lined up on the side of the online newspaper pages.
Another newspaper reporter said that their online unit had been in the black since their classifieds sales department had been adding an additional charge to post the classified on the Internet.
However, they said that recently, as a matter of accounting, their newspaper had decided to attribute those Internet charges to the classifieds print department, putting the online unit back in the red.
"I suspect that the challenge for newspapers will not be the technology to put content online which is fairly easy, but rather on the financial side to see if they can get local advertisers to put their dollars online," added Gregg of the Raleigh Chronicle. ::