I needed a laugh. So I gave this post a silly title. I had the Big Meeting with the newsroom (read: 3 out of 8 reporters counting the sports guys who didn’t show, the city editor, the managing editor and one photog who couldn’t stay for the whole meeting.)
I wrote down two words about halfway through the meeting: “Totally discouraged.”
I’ve had a little time to think, and maybe it’s not all doom and gloom. But here’s a rundown of how it went:
First twenty minutes spent complaining about not enough space in print for stories but how we would be shortchanging readers who don’t have computers yet pay for a subscription, if we offer up “more to the story” online which is free. Also spent this time complaining about not having enough time to tweet or get a story up online while trying to call contacts and get info for story that will be in print. Basically the meeting devolved into the usual discussion of how everyone’s too busy. I did not grow a pair and mention my ‘Time to lean, time to clean’ adage because I felt that going into attack mode would not be helpful.
On commenting: one reporter said they were wary of leaving comments for fear of appearing biased on a story – even if they’re simply posting factual corrections. Tried to reiterate that posting factual information that either corrects someone or that didn’t make it into the story (for space issues, perhaps) is not being biased. Tried to reinforce the idea that one does not have to engage in verbal battles or get suckered by troll bait. Just the presence of a reporter’s comment shows our readers we’re paying attention to them. Hopefully it got through. This reporter showed she was reading comments at least by mentioning one she saw in a story yesterday, and after the meeting, she posted her first. So a reluctant baby step there.
On Twitter: “I don’t get it.” one of them says. “Do we get reimbursed for text messages we send?” … I discovered one reporter doesn’t even have a cell phone. Oh dear.
What I took from this meeting: some of them are willing to try this stuff but feel they have no time for it. Some of them feel something like Twitter isn’t suitable for their beat. On posting their stories to the web themselves, they *really* don’t want to be able to do that without an editorial proofread, which means longer waits for stories to go online and doesn’t help us get to our goal of posting stories online when a reporter comes back to the office. One solution was to use peer editing. Anyone handy can give a second read to a story before it’s posted. I’ll take that for now because it’s another baby step.
So baby steps happened. Maybe the meeting wasn’t as discouraging as I originally thought it was as I sat there. Half-way through, I wanted to leave because I felt like what I wanted to talk about with them was just going to fall on deaf ears. There is still a stigma about the web. And they’re not buying into the informality of posting to the web and how making mistakes there is okay because they can be corrected right away. I can sort of see their point on this because it goes to our credibility and reputation.
Same goes for commenting. Previously, anyone could comment and it was a virtual free-for-all and all of the trolls came out of the woodwork. We implemented registration and comments dropped bigtime. But the tone, when we do get comments, is much better. I prefer tone over quantity. We need to uphold our standards on the web that we do for print as much as we can.
We just have to find a balance. There has to be a way I can show them that you can tweet from a city council meeting even if you’re trying to get quotes and interview people. That even if you’re the reporter covering our whole region and you think nobody will care about reading a twitter update from BF, Nebraska’s village council meeting, it’s still worth it to show our region and our community that we are working to deliver your news to you in as many ways possible.
I’m just not feeling very good about the meeting. I would have liked a better turnout. I just sort of felt under attack throughout the whole thing which put me on the defensive, and made it hard for me to focus on things I wanted them to know. Being on the spot like that is not for me 🙂 It’s why I sit behind a computer all day 🙂 But maybe, just maybe, the baby steps will continue.