Don’t even try to get that story on A1

Pullquote from a bit of morning reading at the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Leadership 3.0 blog:

“I once consulted at a well-respected metro newspaper where several writers told me they tried to avoid pitching their stories for the front page because the ‘serial editing’ of these stories was such a hassle for them and damaging to their stories.”

That’s Michele McLellan writing about Rupert Murdoch’s claim that the average Wall Street Journal story passes across the desks of 8.3 editors.

How often have you heard from reporters who hold on to a solid story idea because they’re afraid their editors will “just ruin it” ?

8.3 is a big number, too many pairs of eyes for even the WSJ, but in many cases, I think even the three or four editors that a story at a small paper might run through are too many.  To be honest, sometimes one editor can get the job done — if it’s the right editor.

A note to my fellow graduate students: Agenda-setting is real, and it matters who edits a story last and who looks over the copy editor’s shoulder while they put together headlines, but inefficiency outweighs bias most of the time.

Unrelated bonus link: Pullquotes.org, a fun little database-powered Sunlight-type project that lets you guess  which political party a quotee belongs to.

Migration and alternate reads

I’ve been a little busy for the last week or so moving across the country, although going weeks between posts isn’t really anything new here, eh? As always, I’m posting to Twitter far more often than I could hope to blog here.

While I’m slammed with life and work busy-ness, please check out the following if you haven’t yet:

  • Sean Blanda’s Confessions of a journalism student: “The problems facing journalism schools are similar to those facing colleges overall: industries moving too quickly, lower barriers of entry into certain job markets, and the cost of education outpacing the reward.”
  • Shawn Smith on How to write Web headlines: “Be interesting, not mysterious! Interesting doesn’t mean making readers guess what a story is about. A web reader won’t often click into a story to figure out what your headline means.”
  • The Knight News Challenge runners-up: Including Matt Waite’s Louretta CMS for small-town news sites.
  • Hartnett introduces us to Backyard Post: “What I’d really like to leave you thinking about today is simply the foundation on which Backyard Post is built: Neighborhoods. Not cities, ZIP codes or some other vague, gigantic or similarly off-the-mark stab at reaching actual humans in the actual neighborhoods where they actually live.”

Our new washer and dryer will be here any minute, so I’ll leave it at that. Rumor has it our car is in New Jersey, so we’ve got that going for us. Moving is easy. Migration is hard.

Meeting story hydraulics

John Robinson, editor at the Greensboro News & Record, on stepping away from the “meeting story”:

“Welcome to the world of hard choices. It’s always been this way. We don’t cover everything. We don’t even cover what we used to. Newspaper staffs are getting smaller, yet the number of meetings and events, of commissions and government agencies grows. Partly as a result, newspapers are also moving away from devoting as much energy to covering “buildings.” Not only are there fewer reporters, but there is evidence that readers aren’t as interested in what traditionally is produced by that coverage: stories about meetings and bureaucracy. For every big scandal story, there are 100 smaller process stories required to get there.”

Something I’ve heard more than a few times, wise advice from experienced editors: If you can’t find the photo in your story, you might not have a story.

My version: If there’s a meeting in your lede, you need to find a person in your community affected by the decision made at the meeting, then rewrite your lede to include them in it.

The trick: Getting the photo to be of the person in your lede. Never as easy as it sounds.

None of these tips, of course, address the issues of how to cover local government with a shrinking staff.

A scorecard graphic? Still takes reporting time to boil down to facts.

Stringers? Still costs money.

Reader blogs? Works well enough to get the information from meetings to the Web, but this can’t be the best way to give your community a voice.

Video? This can work really well, but it’s time consuming to find the highlights, much like editing lots of football game footage late on a Friday night. But it can work. Check out this h2otown clip.

Now that’s clearly a story about something that happened AT a meeting, which is exactly the opposite of what I’m advising, but would you have a feel for all that emotion in print? Depends on the town and the writer, I suppose.

Thinking out loud about this; feel free to join in.

Seven notes, six links

Hypothesis:
Dooce is (still) one of the best things on the Interweb.

Plea:
Jay Rosen has the beatblogging with a social network thing worked up pretty clearly at this point, but if the project doesn’t leave behind tools (a WordPress theme, a Drupal module, a useful set of forms — something more tangible than good ideas that other news organizations can use), it’s just twelve more reporters with a blog and a bunch of know-it-all commenters. [UPDATE: Wow, that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? I’ll write something more practical about it later and add a link here.]

More:
The NYTimes.com tech aggregator thing is cute, but first of all, isn’t this space a little crowded? And second of all, can’t you just use the frigging Blogrunner algorithm to add headlines to your stories from blogs that link to them? It was doing that when you bought it.

Seriously:
Why did my house get two calls in one day from circulation salesfolk from the Mercury News? Could it be because there was an earthquake on their front page for the last two days and someone thought it was a good time to blitz Santa Cruz? Or because the local paper moves out of downtown this weekend? Or do they just hate children and want to wake up sleeping babies every chance they get?

Fact:
I have worked in a newsroom where the circulation employees (not their fault – I blame the software) would call newsroom employees — at their desks in the same building — trying to sell them a subscription.

Opinion:
Scott Adams is a wonderful, wonderful man.

Thanks:
To Rex for the clue about Hype Machine when he blogged (or twittered?) its redesign launch. If all I got from it was the song stuck in my head right now, that would have been enough.

From the inverted pyramid to the tumbled pyramid (João Canavilhas) – Online Journalism Blog

“This behaviour suggests that web news writing compels a shift from the paradigm of printed press techniques. While data organisation in print progresses towards contents deemed the least relevant by the journalist, online it is the readers who define the

From the inverted pyramid to the tumbled pyramid (João Canavilhas) – Online Journalism Blog