Shelby Star publisher on paper’s innovations

I mentioned the Shelby Star in a previous post. At the same time, I e-mailed the publisher some questions. He answered in the comments to that post, but I wanted to elevate the questions and answers to their own post.

Thanks for your kind words about The Star’s innovation efforts. I am happy to answer the questions you posed in an e-mail. If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Q. What equipment are you using for video?
A. We went with low end, consumer-brand video cameras (we tease ourselves about how when we FIRST started doing this, just as our innovation plans were taking shape, our first camera was a Sears floor model!) Most of the editing is done in Windows Movie Maker, esp. by reporters. Our interactive editor and webmaster use Adobe Premiere Pro.
We are really following the tenets of Newspaper Next and looking for “good enough” solutions rather than trying to shoot “60 Minutes” quality news video. That’s a topic over which there is much disagreement, but the beauty of being a test tube is that we can simply try what we want.

Q. Are the reporters editing their own video?
A. For the most part, yes. Our crime reporter, Graham Cawthon, is a leader in this area.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: While video is an important part of our new multi-media efforts, our partnership with the University of South Carolina’s Newsplex, and with USC’s Randy Covington in particular, led us to invest quite a bit of time and energy into moblogging. We bought high-end camera/audio/video cell phones for reporters (Samsung A990s, I believe) and reporters do quite a bit of mobile-blogging from various events. You can see a number of examples on our site from Graham’s blog and others.

Q. What has been the newsroom response? What are the attitudes today vs. when you started?
A. We have been blessed to have reporters (and editors) who are not risk- and change-averse. Our reporters understand that the days of carrying around only a notebook are over. Reporters trained to report in print and on-line are positioned to sprint ahead of those stuck in the past. Plus, it’s fun! New gadgets and stuff are just plain cool. Seriously, the Readership Institute’s idea of “experiencing” the news is truly manifested, we believe, in multimedia, interactive content.

Q. What has been the community response?
A. It has been almost all positive. The only pushback we get is from older readers with computers who think we are moving tons of content from the print product to the web site — of course, that’s not true. One pleasant surprise has been the eagerness of law enforcement to share surveillance video — we’ve had some good traffic hits on that. Also, getting lots more requests to cover events not just in print, but on-line as well. People, even in a market like this, get it. The world is changing.

Q. Has video helped you grow?
A. Tough to answer that one. Our page views grew by more than 80 percent in 2006. But our tracking system is poor (Freedom is helping us upgrade this and we should get better numbers soon). Individual videos, however, (esp. those involving crime) have seen as many as 5,000 downloads — not bad for a 15,000 circ. paper. With a number of vidoes seeing 1,000 to 2,000 downloads.

OK, I’ve typed a ton and don’t see spellcheck on here, so don’t hold that against me! If you have any other questions, let me know.

Skip Foster
Publisher (for the past 20 days, previously editor for 9 years)
The Shelby Star

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