Progress report: Those 2012 resolutions ...
|Larry Lough is executive editor of Sauk Valley Media. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
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Time flies when you’re trying to keep promises.
You might recall the editor’s column of this past Dec. 31, which listed New Year’s resolutions – job related only – made by several news staff members.
You might even remember the editor’s resolution: To make sure that all of the staff members follow through on their resolutions.
Six months later, we think an update is due.
EARLY THIS MONTH, the 14 staff members who went public with their resolutions received a note from the editor.
“Time to report back to readers on our New Year’s resolutions,” it said.
“... So, send me a paragraph to let me know how you’ve done with your resolution, and a specific example if possible. It can be a tactic or strategy you’ve used toward your goal, or an explanation of how you’ve accomplished it.
“And give yourself a letter grade: A, B, C ... or Incomplete.”
Hey, they still have 6 months to get it done in 2012.
JEFF ROGERS, OUR managing editor, had resolved to step up the use of “new methods of delivery we’ve developed the past few years to make our local news report more immediate and essential for readers. ...”
He reports: “The natural course of events has led our news team to pick up the pace in all of these areas – text alerts, video, Facebook and Twitter. The Rita Crundwell matter in Dixon shifted us into a higher gear with text alerts and Facebook postings, as the readers’ appetite for the story has been voracious. Our heightened awareness of providing breaking news on this story has carried over into our ‘routine’ coverage, and we’re doing far more text alerts now than before.
“Facebook continues to grow, both in the number of likes (we’re approaching 6,000!) and the participation of our readers (lots of comments and tips!). And we’re doing videos much more frequently, and on a wider range of stories, than in the past. If I had to give us a grade, I’d say it’s a ‘B.’ We could be more organized in how and when we use social media than we are, and that’s something we’ll improve in the second half of the year.”
The editor upgrades that mark to B+.
OUR ONLINE EDITOR, Angel Sierra, had a hand in that.
“My goals were to invest more in our online presence, grow our social outlets, and produce more video,” he wrote. “They are incomplete, as they should be. A milestone reach of 5,000+ Facebook fans (5,800 currently), and nearly a 60 percent increase in year-over-year video production have shown me that data trends have been exceedingly positive.
“I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for the input and opportunity that readers give us daily as we continue to experiment, innovate and evolve. #MuchLove”
Thanks, Angel. Let’s give our readers A+!
JIM DUNN, EDITOR of the Opinion page, had resolved to publicly recognize a local Freedom on Information Act “hero.”
“Mission accomplished,” Jim wrote. “The editorial ran on March 17.”
That was “Sunshine Week,” when we recognized the efforts of Judge Jeffrey W. O’Connor, who is chief judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Whiteside County. He led efforts to implement the state’s new policy to allow news photography in trial courts.
“By virtue of the fact that he was the first Illinois judge to apply for the extended media coverage program, and be granted permission to conduct it, Judge O’Connor is a Sunshine Week Hero in our eyes,” the editorial said.
“In words and deeds, O’Connor is a trailblazer for greater transparency in Illinois courtrooms.”
PHOTO CHIEF ALEX Paschal noted that photographer David Rauch had achieved his resolution: to leave the staff for graduate school.
That void was filled through the use of several local free-lance photographers.
“We strive to continue to accurately and creatively cover the news, sports and features in the area, and now with the help of Newman grad and current NIU student Ross Haley, should be in great shape for the summer,” Alex wrote.
“Phil [Marruffo] resolves to pay me for winning the 2011 NCAA bracket – yes that’s 2011 – and I will continue to search for that ‘once in a lifetime’ photograph.”
Oh, and about Marruffo’s “resolution” to quit smoking: never mind.
That was an inside joke, Alex reports.
Well, maybe next year.
ASSISTANT SPORTS editor Christopher Heimerman said he earned an A- in becoming “a more confident, unapologetic columnist.”
“It would’ve been a solid A, but I wasn’t fond of my column that was part of our coverage of Milledgeville at the state softball tournament,” he wrote. “It meandered. I was disappointed with its lack of focus.
“But I came back strong with a dandy from the Sterling-Marengo sectional final and, even more so, my column from the first installment of ‘The Hidden Injury’” – our summer series on concussions in young athletes.
Well done, Christopher. Columnists add an important dimension to a newspaper, which should participate in – as well as facilitate – public discussion on important local issues.
TOUGHEST GRADER on the staff was news reporter David Giuliani, who had resolved to provide readers with more descriptive writing.
“I give myself a D, and that may be generous,” David reported. “I’ve never been good at setting a scene. But I have tried this year.
“During a fire at a Sterling apartment building in February, I noticed a tenant without a coat on. Snow was falling. Her 24-year-old son put his jacket over her. He was left in a white T-shirt in near-freezing weather. He hugged his mom and held her hand. I picked up on all of the details; I should do this much more often.”
Right, David. Reporters have to use all their senses and not merely report what people say. Good writing includes descriptions of the sights, sounds, and even smells that can help to put readers at the scene.
EMILY COLEMAN ASKED for a high grade for her outreach to Dixon readers as she covered their community.
“Needless to say, it’s been an interesting year for Dixon, and residents really took advantage of my ‘office hours’ every Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m. at Books on First, ...” she wrote. “I’ve also kept a weekly column called Dateline Dixon where, following the arrest of now ex-Comptroller Rita Crundwell, I’ve answered the questions that readers have called, emailed or stopped me on the street to ask.
“The response has been very positive, and I’m glad so many of you appreciate it. Keep the questions coming! (They don’t even have to be Crundwell related.)
“So I think (hope) I get an A.”
OK, the gruff old editor said, but improving accessibility is like driver’s ed – an easy A. The next 6 months, let’s set the bar a little higher!
MARLA SEIDELL, WHO has many duties, had pledged to get even more local content into the many special sections and magazines she coordinates.
“I think I have done OK with my New Year’s resolution,” she reported. “The last ‘Wheels’ magazine had only one wire story in it. However, there’s always room for improvement, so as far as grades go I give myself an [incomplete].”
Newspapers are publishing news constantly – in print, online, and through whatever information delivery system we have. In a sense, it’s a process that’s never complete.
SPORTS REPORTER TY Reynolds reported good progress toward producing “tighter, more concise stories” with more descriptive writing.
“Well, I’m halfway home,” he wrote. “I’ve done a much better job using descriptive language, but only recently has the ‘concise’ part of the equation been in within the realm of possibility.”
The editor’s philosophy: Anything can be a brief. Not everything should be, but anything can be. Start with that approach, and brevity is easier to achieve.
EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Phil Hartman had pledged to improve service to customers by committing to the basics of accuracy and fact-checking.
“I would have to give myself a B- or a C+,” Phil wrote. “I have been taking more time on individual items, and making more of an effort to track down contact information. However, I still have areas where I can improve. ...”
We all do, Phil.
We all do.
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