Interview: Chris Krewson on changes at Philly.com and the Inquirer

Last night, I took an unceremonious break from my self-imposed Romenesko diet.

I had seen a stream of tweets and blog posts and shared links about something that sounded crazy coming out of Philadephia.

The word going around, more or less, was that the Philadelphia Inquirer was going to hold stories back from the Web, Philly.com, until the stories were published in print.

Here’s the memo from Managing Editor Mike Leary, as posted on Romenesko, that started all the action.  It includes this:

“Beginning today, we are adopting an Inquirer first policy for our signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features, and reviews of all sorts. What that means is that we won’t post those stories online until they’re in print.”

And here’s a sampling of reaction, from Jeff Jarvis, Steve Yelvington, and Howard Owens.

My own first thoughts?

“With Mark Potts, Yoni Greenbaum, and this Krewson guy I’ve been talking with on Twitter a bit lately involved, I have a hard time digesting this.  It sounds crazy.”

Cut to today, when Chris Krewson, Executive Editor, Online/News at the Inquirer, sat down for an IM interview with me.

The transcript follows:

Ryan Sholin: So a memo from Inquirer ME Mike Leary got posted on Romenesko yesterday. It seemed, well, kinda crazy to folks like me who watch newspaper and online news trends. Can you clarify what types of stories will be held for print-first publishing?

Chris Krewson: Let me clarify by saying this will be print-Web simultaneous publishing, never really print first.

We’re honestly mostly talking about features stories, restaurant reviews, big-name critics – but (this is an important change) NOT movie reviews, day-after-the-concert movie reviews or things of that nature.

Also, there’s an argument to be made that a major investigative piece will have a much larger potential audience at 6 am — combined with a strong print push — than if that same long, narrative-driven story is posted at 11 pm the previous night.

Since I arrived here in November ’07, we’ve tried hard to figure out how people actually use the paper and the Web site. obviously, that’s for different reasons. And we’re just trying to make sure we’re careful about what we do — roughly 75 percent of that will not change.

The other 25 will be us taking more care, making case-by-case decisions, armed by whatever information we have about how people use our products.

RS: To those of us outside the Philly.com/Inquirer/DailyNews world, it’s a little mysterious as to where the divisions are between newsrooms or web/print — can you elaborate on what the structure is like there? There’s a bit of an us/them current that some folks (Jay Rosen Steve Yelvington in particular) picked up on in that memo from Mike.

CK: I can sure try. But keep in mind that unlike nearly every other place in the country, it’s not one paper, one Web site. There’s the Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com, the site for both.

Philly.com has the Web producers, a separate Editor/VP and an executive producer. None of whom work for me.

Each newspaper has its own online desk; ours is focused on breaking news and special projects.

That brings up a whole host of challenges, but that’s why they hired me. 🙂

RS: So in a case like Daniel Rubin – he’s an Inquirer reporter with a popular blog, if I’ve got my scorecard right here – how might the change affect his blogging? Do you see this as a policy change for all your bloggers? Will they be expected to do a little *less* “beat-blogging” as they build enterprise pieces?

CK: Far from it.

As I tweeted earlier, we’re actively encouraging beat reporters to use their blogs.

This won’t affect Dan Rubin or any other reporter who wants to try out ideas, gather string for stories or columns, crowd-source or anything else.

We are saying, in effect, please don’t self-publish the full draft of your story or column on your blog before it runs in the paper.

And I think it’s in our best interest to know and control when we’re publishing our columns, for all kinds of reasons (some of which are legal).

RS: Have there been problems with columnist/bloggers floating full drafts online?

CK: I wouldn’t characterize them as problems, but it’s something we’re now discouraging.

RS: To jump back to the *types* of stories that are going to be held until morning, if that’s a fair characterization of the change, here’s what’s in the memo: “signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features, and reviews of all sorts…” So, trend stories? News features? What’s the benefit in holding those?

CK: Let’s turn that around. What’s the benefit in posting those in full?

I, for one, have been working in online news long enough to know what moves the needle online.

It doesn’t tend to be trend stories or news features, unless there’s some combination of pro sports, sex scandal or crime involved.

RS: That leads to my next (maybe last) angle on this: What spurred the decision? Is this coming from a revenue-side plea, or a negotiation, or a long series of brainstorming meetings? Was this a quick turn based on events?

CK: I do not know that for sure, having heard internal rumors that I’m loathe to spread because I do not know the truth of them. I do know that we’ve been talking for a while (and again, I’ve been here 8 months) about what makes sense to post, and what doesn’t. I’ve not officially heard of any one “tipping point.” But there was definitely little lead time (read: 2 hours, for me) that the memo was coming.

RS: So if there are “sides” here, and it seems like there are, this was a “news side” decision, and not a “Web side” decision?

CK: That’s a fair characterization.

RS: I think that answers a lot of what’s out there. Philly is obviously getting torn to shreds in the journo-blogosphere right now. Anything you’d like to add, or respond to here?

CK: Well, the beauty of Romenesko is that it gives you a look inside newsrooms at other places, some large and messy.

It’s important to remember that when you’re reading a memo, you’re looking through a pinhole, and maybe not seeing all kinds of things.

And many of those blog posts would have benefited from … more reporting. You, for instance, are the first to contact somebody in the newsroom to comment.

Which, you’ll notice, I’ve done. At length.

So, with that said, thanks to everyone for the interest. You’ll hear more in the days and weeks to come about how it’s going here.

RS: Thanks, Chris.

Thanks to Zac Echola and David Cohn for throwing some quick questions my way in the middle of the interview.

So there’s some insight, if not necessarily all the answers to what’s going on in Philly.  If you have unanswered questions, feel free to ask them here.  I’m sure a few folks involved in the decision will be watching, and hopefully they’ll jump into the thread to answer what’s left out there.

10 blogs your newspaper needs to rip off

I’m making a short list of frequently updated news blogs published by mainstream news organizations that post breaking news and link out to other sources.

If you run a newspaper.com and you don’t have a blog like this to put together links and short updates, ask yourself why not.

These are all great examples of blogs that get news up in a timely way without a great deal of waiting around for a daily-print-cycle-based editorial process to wrap up.

  1. The Lede – New York Times – Notes on the news in the Times and all over the place. Links to blogs, other news sources, YouTube videos embedded on the page, etc. See also: City Room for the local NYC version.
  2. Blotter – ABC News – “Brian Ross and the Investigative Team” provide lots of detail on current news stories. Not much in the way of links, but there’s lots more here than you’d find on the nightly newscast.
  3. On Deadline – USA Today – Breaking news, including frequent updates on whatever’s breaking right now this minute, plus links to outside sources.
  4. The Trail – Washington Post – Campaign trail notes from WaPo staffers. Less links and more reporting, but short and sweet for the most part, far ahead of the print cycle.
  5. Wonkette – Gawker Media – Washington DC gossip + snark.
  6. Instapundit – Glenn Reynolds – A classic example of a political blog, but the links are the content here.
  7. Romenesko – Poynter – I’d guess this is the single most widely-read blog in U.S. newsrooms. All the news industry news you can shake a browser at, all links, all the time.
  8. Epicenter – Wired – Lots of technology business news here, often in the form of short posts with links to other news sources, blogs, and research.
  9. L.A. Now – L.A. Times – Daily links, photos, and bits of news.
  10. TechBlog – Houston Chronicle – OK, so this is more topical than timely, but Dwight Silverman is probably the most prolific individual newspaper blogger out there, with really frequent updates and lots of links, focusing on consumer technology, not venture capital news that no one outside of Silicon Valley cares much about.

Feel free to add more examples in the comments.

I’m looking for the best news linkblogs out there to use as examples of what a newspaper.com should be doing with an all-purpose breaking news blog or a topical linkblog.

See also: Scott Karp on “link journalism.” 

Giving your sources blogs cuts out the middleman

A few days ago, Dave Winer wrote:

“I’ve said it many times before, it’s worth raising again. Any newspaper or radio or TV station with a good reputation in its community could embrace the fresh ideas of the bloggers in their community by offering free blogs to members of the community, who may be new to blogging. I suggested this to the Times in 2001 — when a person is quoted in a Times article, a few days after the piece runs, contact them, and ask if they’d like to have a NY Times hosted blog. There would be no control over what appeared on the blog.”

He’s talking about the New York Times and letting sources have a space to speak without the intermediation of the reporter (and editors). (Is that accurate, Dave?).

Newspaper-hosted reader blogs and local blog aggregators are starting to pop up all over the place. That’s one approach: Become the community water cooler by giving the chatty folks a place to do their thing.

Dave’s idea has a similar root to the recently announced and denounced Google News commenting feature: Give the people who give you quotes a place to add context and elaboration.

My first instinct — and I think it’s a good one — is to recommend that every newspaper offer the usual suspects — local politicians, gadflies, and activists — their own blogs on the paper’s site. It seems like such a no-brainer, I can already think of six or seven people in my town I would call up today and offer blogs to. Maybe I will.

A story that didn’t fit in the paper

I was skimming Mark Glaser’s Jennifer Woodard Maderazo’s round-up of online mappety map goodness at MediaShift a minute ago when I saw a link to the LA Times crime blog Homicide Report and remembered that it was one I wanted to check in on as a reference point for something we’re taking about brewing up at work.

And the first post I saw was something far more important than a quick brief on a reported homicide to add as a point on a map:

“One reporter? One single reporter?” Solomon Martin, 71, was forthright about what he thought about a reporter for The Homicide Report walking down his Compton street last month after a homicide. “They send you, by yourself? Where are your lights? Where are your trucks? Your cameras?” he demanded. “You can tell your supervisor that I was displeased! Displeased with you coming out here with a little digital camera–a little digital camera–for this! Where are your trucks?” Martin, a retired school-district worker, assumed a look of disgust. “One single reporter,” he repeated. “To do a story that will be three lines on page 20.”

He’s right, of course, but now the story of his dissatisfaction is told — and the good questions are asked about covering murders in a city of 11 or 12 or 13 million people.

Why? Because there’s this blog, see, and there’s actually a reporter spending a part of her day just covering murders in L.A. by doing bits of journalism and posting them to an online stream of news and a map mashup.

Journalists provide the public with information. And obviously, the public provide journalists with information.

In this case, the information was about the relationship of the source to the coverage, of the community to the coverage, of the victim and the suspect to the coverage.

And now the readers of the L.A. Times online have that information, too.

Is one reporter with a point-and-shoot enough to cover a homicide?

It appears to be enough to tell an important part of the story.

The easy route to online newspaper transparency

Joe Murphy offers newspapers five ways to be a little less opaque online.

Basic things like disclosing conflicts of interest are easy enough, archiving corrections online can be more difficult, but my favorite element on this list, of course is #2, in which the Editor blogs:

“Start an editor’s blog, or ombudsman blog, or some blog written by somebody with the authority to write about the decisions the paper makes.”

This should be the point of entry for most papers, as it’s easy, takes no time away from anyone except the guy or gal in the glass office, and most of the time, they’re happy to get all the feedback they can on how the paper is doing.

A word of warning: Depending on the community’s ideas about the paper, you could be putting your boss in a dunk tank.  If they mind getting wet now and then, they’re not going to be thrilled about it.  But I’m pretty sure that’s part of the job description, isn’t it?

Newspaper blogs appear to be hitting the takeoff point, if they haven’t already

It appears to be time for me to get back to doing some preliminary data gathering for my thesis in my spare time:
Web newspaper blog traffic triples in Dec.-study (via Reuters)

“Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in [December 2006], up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.”

Those are awfully pleasant numbers.

Somewhere in my laptop, there’s a spreadsheet giving me the evil eye right now; it’s half-full of data on newspaper blogs.

My side projects at this point are starting to outnumber my work and school projects – Well, maybe not my work projects, but you get the idea. And of course, I’ve been blogging a bit more the last week or so, keeping me away from wrapping up any of the side projects. Now where was that post about procrastination?

Move along, nothing to see here…

I was in Boston all weekend, cut me some slack

  1. I was in Boston all weekend. First time really walking around in the city. It felt a lot like New York, except that people in Red Sox hats kept popping up everywhere. Where do these people think they are? Is that guy wearing a Patriots shirt? WTF?
  2. Every time I go to a new vegetarian Asian restaurant, I eat too much. When they say “large platter,” they mean it. But still, nothing is as good as VP2 in New York. No contest, and I’ve tried places in San Jose, San Francisco, and Boston now.
  3. Um, everyone was friendly in Boston. And it was clean. And I saw fewer homeless people than I see in Santa Cruz. And the subway was efficient.
  4. Before I left for the weekend, I helped throw together a podcast and an audio-free week-in-photos Soundslides bit at work. It’s exactly the sort of work I’ve been trying to get around to. I’ll have more time for multimedia shortly.
  5. I’m working on a redesign of this site. Yes, another one. It’s been a few months after all, and I’ve been enjoying developing WordPress blogs for work on top of Chris Pearson’s Cutline theme, so I figured I’d try it out myself. It’s in the works.
  6. I’m making progress with thesis-related bureaucracy. I’m supposed to turn another draft of my proposal in to my adviser tomorrow. It’s not going to have all the additions done, but it should have all the right language in it. Human subjects paperwork is ready to be re-submitted again. I promise not to ask anyone’s boss for permission to speak to them. Sheesh.
  7. Speaking of my thesis, Dana Hull of the Merc has a good newspaper blog round-up in the American Journalism Review. If you’re wondering what your paper should be blogging about, how to come up with guidelines, and whether you’re supposed to edit the darn things, then give it a read.
  8. Am I the only one who saw CNN Headline News this morning showing video of what was clearly not a 757 hitting the Pentagon on 9/11? Um, shouldn’t this be a bigger story? Hoping something about it pops up tomorrow…
  9. Speaking of airport security, my ID got scanned by the TSA at Logan airport this morning. I’m wondering why I got picked. Beard? Last name? Were they checking every tenth ID? I felt a little weird about it, but mostly I just don’t like handing over my ‘papers’ to a guy in uniform with a machine on his lap. Maybe he knew I was a Yankee fan.
  10. Yes, I was in Boston and I didn’t call you. I flew in late Friday to meet my wife there for the weekend, spent all day Saturday walking around town, then flew back with her this morning. And I’m exhausted. So cut me some slack.