Web First: Workflow for a Modern Newsroom

Casey Smith is a smart guy. When he was Editor-in-Chief of the UW Daily at the University of Washington in Seattle, he won the paper a Pacemaker by pushing it forward into the digital age. Now, he manages mobile application development, social media marketing and tech support at College Publisher in New York City.

During his session today, he provided tips for organizations just experimenting with an online publishing model, as well as suggestions for those with a well-established online presence. He said all online headlines should be search-engine optimized, and most should include the school’s name and location.

“Mention something geographically specific to your campus,” he said “Only 25 percent of site traffic comes from the local area. The rest is alumni and Google searchers.”

He also suggested writing hard-news style summaries to appear beneath headlines to ensure readers know what they are about to click on.

To ensure a reader stays on the page, Smith suggested including photo galleries with every story, and polls with almost every news story.

“Isn’t it a goal of the news section to gauge public opinion?” he asked. “I’d recommend putting up one additional web element for every story you put online.”

And in the interest of timeliness, Smith said it’s sometimes OK to forgo copy editing, at least initially.

“With breaking news, you can shoot yourself in the foot by waiting too long to put it up,” he said. “You can think about online news as being written in pencil; you can always go back and fix it.”

I at least partially agree with the majority of the suggestions Smith offered, but I think they should be employed judiciously. Errors in news articles, even small ones, can undermine the credibility of the story. I do agree our copy editing process should be expedited, though. And I think polls are best suited to accompany stories about controversial topics, though we should make a concerted effort to include interactive web elements in our posts.

Smith also suggested sending an email edition of the paper to students, faculty and alumni. I disagree with this suggestion. I believe social media is a far more effective way to generate site traffic. When I receive email editions of anything, from E-net updates to The New Yorker, I almost always delete them immediately. Emails like that clutter inboxes, and I don’t want The Pendulum to become a source of clutter. Plus, our past attempts at e-newsletters have been fairly unsuccessful.

— Katie Blunt



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