GateHouse Video of the Week

The post I just did gave me a thought — now that we’re getting wider distribution and participation from our news sites in our video strategy, I should highlight some of the better, more interesting videos our reporters shoot.

My intention is to do a video of the week, but given how busy I can get some times, I doubt I’ll be that deligent some times, or that posting will be evenly spaced.

I’ll start, though, this week with two I just found on YouTube (where most of our papers post their video).

Praise for GateHouse Media video strategy

Here’s a nice, complimentary post about the GateHouse Media video strategy from a local political blogger.

Cool. I don’t know the guy. He’s not part of the professional media crowd, as far as I know (he posts anonymously). He’s what some might call a “citizen journalist.” And he gets it.

He recognizes the difference between our FasterMore strategy vs. Gannett’s BiggerBetter strategy (see Ryan).

The Messenger-Post took an entirely different tack. They give their print reporters cheap cameras and had them add video to their stories. The M-P treats video as a complement to the print story. One good example is yesterday’s coverage of an accident at a local ice warehouse. Here’s a better one: a feature on a local sword swallower. You don’t have to watch the video to understand the story, but if you’re interested in the story, watching the video adds more detail. It’s not always done perfectly, but the sword swallower piece is as near a perfect fusion as I’ve seen.

That sword swallower video certainly is something to see … and I, for one, really don’t need to see that shot with a Canon XH-A1 (or even the Sony camcorders Gannett issues) and then have it over edited.

And I’ve got to say, MP is doing a great job with our video approach. They get some good pieces that fit well with their stories and are conscientious about shooting lots of video.

If you want to see more GHS video from all over the country — the good, the bad and the ugly — click here.

Looking at Canton’s video training

A couple of weeks ago, we brought Cyndy Green into Canton to train photographers and reporters on video basics.

The photographers were working with Canon HV20s, and the reporters with Casios.

The staff in Canton continues to consult with Cyndy, and Cyndy is sharing some of the things the staff is learning and dealing with. Here’s her latest post.

I know that a lot of journalists object to the video strategy I advocate, because it doesn’t stress “quality.” But as I told the Canton staff when I met with them a week or so before Cyndy’s training — you’re not going to be like TV, don’t even try, especially since that isn’t what the online audience wants or expects. You’ve got to learn video before you’re ever going to produce quality video, and we’ve got to start at whatever level we start at, so we’re embracing the low end (inexpensive equipment and quick-to-produce videos) with a commitment to grow.

Cyndy did a great job and it’s going to be fun to watch Canton grow as an online video team.

New Wicked Local

GateHouse Media New England launched a new Wicked Local last night.

For those not familiar the Wicked Local project, it was launched as a small-town “hyperlocal” experiment in 2006, before GateHouse acquired Enterprise Media.

Because of the success of the initial sites, we wanted to expand it to all of GHMNE.

That said, we also wanted to move the sites onto a unified platform of our own conception and redesign and restructure the sites.

Here’s a typical Wicked Local site today.

I think the design, by Nick Sergeant, is gorgeous.

Admittedly, the sites still need some polish. We didn’t finish “submit an article” and “submit an event” in time for launch (for business reasons, we had a hard deadline to meet), so these are mailto links. The UGC platform is also in early beta stages. We have a lot of tweaks, changes and additions planned.

One of the interesting discussions we had is what to do with In the old model (now completely replaced by WL), the home page was a collection of top headlines from all of the weeklies in the GHMNE group. This did not prove to be a terribily effective traffic driver. Since WL is a collection of 160 sites, not just one newspaper, the typical home page strategy of a seemed inappropriate.

So, what to do?

Hey! How about turn the home page into a blog?

Great idea!

I wish I could take credit for it, but that credit goes to Anne Eisenmenger, VP of Interactive for GHMNE.

The blog, too, needs some spit and polish yet. We’re also going to make video a key feature of the page once we work out some issues with that implementation.

I’ve only mentioned by name two key people involved in this project, but there were dozens and dozens of people involved in the planning and execution of this launch. Many, many people put in extra hours. Everybody’s hard work is greatly appreciated.

GateHouse Media adopts Drupal as secondary development platform

Steve Yelvington says “it’s not about the technology.”

He’s right, of course.

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is that to some extent, technology is a commodity.

What I mean by that if you laid out a web site strategy, chances are every piece of technology you would need — a CMS, participation tools, multimedia — already exists, and it’s available for free.

Why write code from scratch when you can download everything you need all ready to install?

At GateHouse Media, we have two online businesses to run. We have our core, enterprise business (meaning the primary and we have lots of side projects that we want to pursue.

For the core, we use Zope4Media from Zope Corp. For a company the size of GHS, we simply must have enterprise level software that scales to our scope, and the world class development team that Zope Corp delivers. Zope is building great products for us and it’s a great relationship.

We keep Zope very busy developing new tools for Z4M.

That means, of course, that their developers aren’t available to chase down every wild idea we might want to let loose on the web. And for some site ideas, it just makes more sense to run those projects as an independent skunk works.

Recently, we told the handful of developers working for GateHouse that we want them to learn Drupal. This was a significant policy change for us. Our original development policy put the emphasis on developers working in whatever environment they knew best.

After further thought, that simply didn’t make sense. It would be unwieldy to support over the long term multiple and diverse projects written in an alphabet soup of languages.

And what if some project, written by one lone coder, became a big hit, and then that coder left, and nobody else in the company knew either his language or his methodology?

By centralizing on Drupal, we solve that problem. We also tap into a robust open source community, with a lot of newspaper industry support already, and our own developers can more easily share code.

In time, I believe Drupal will give us the ability to more rapidly deploy web sites. My dream is that on a Monday morning, a publisher will call us and say he’s launching a new woman’s magazine in his market and he needs a web site ASAP. And he wants all the bells and whistles, such as user blogs, video and comments. Instead of saying, “We’ll get to that in three or four months,” we’ll be able to say, “Great. We’ll have that up for your launch.” How will we do that? Because we’ll have established a standard Drupal installation for that scope of project, so we’ll make a couple of localized changes and deploy it.

Drupal, with all it’s modules, will allow us to adjust the content strategy for such sites as needed.

The other advantage is that we make better use of the development talent in the company. Only our larger newspapers — and not all of them — have local developers. Our smaller newspapers will never have developers. With everyone working on Drupal projects, we can more readily deploy and support one-off sites for the smaller publications.

If we get to where we need to be (with both Zope and Drupal), we’ll be in a place were we’re innovating around content and advertising ideas instead of trying to invent new technological solutions. We can iterate off of what already exists and move quickly to solve problems and create opportunities.

We’re then treating technology as a commodity and concentrating on what we do best — delivering content to users and results to advertisers.

Rockford launches on new template launched on a new site design last night.  We call this template the “Rockford template.” Previously, we launched a template on that we now call the “Kiowa template.”

Next month, a third generation GateHouse Media template will hit the web.  I won’t tell you just when, where and what yet.
We will also continue to iterate on these templates.  We are especially eager to incorporate some upgrades to the Kiowa templates. Our plan is to have a series of highly modular, customizable and flexible templates for our newspaper sites to pick from.  We’re taking what I would call a very object-oriented approach with the idea that behind the scenes we have the benefits of being cookie cutter, but from a retail view (the side users see), no two sites really look the same. That will take time to develop and perfect, but we have a good foundation in place now.

There are, of course, issues with to tweak and fix, but as is our motto: “We’ll get there. It will be fine.”

We also have a long list of features and functionality to roll out that will help us archive our community-focused goals.  We’ll get there. It will be fine.

Illustrating a story about worms with P&S

Just for the record, I encourage my wife do point-and-shoot video, too. Here’s one she did on a guy and his worms.

The video goes with this story.

Note, we don’t have our own video player yet. We’re still using YouTube. We expect to launch our own video player in just a few more weeks. That will improve placement of the video on the story page.

Looking for a journalism job? Try GateHouse Media

While other newspaper companies continue to announce layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes, GateHouse Media has a robust pipeline of current openings.

Here’s a JournalismJobs posting of more than two dozen full-time reporter and editor jobs in New England.

More openings listed here.

I’ve mentioned before about the recruitment site in Rockford. We’re also looking for reporters in the Chicago area.

UPDATE: I forgot, more GateHouse jobs listed on the GateHouse Newsroom site. This page will show you journalism openings from papers all over the country.

GUEST POST: Rockford editor on Myers-Briggs in the newsroom and the future of journalism

One of the things I love about working at GateHouse Media is how many great, smart, talented, driven, passionate people I meet. There are a lot of such people with GateHouse.

Last week, I was sitting in office of Linda Grist Cunningham, our editor at the Rockford Register Star, talking about all of the work we have ahead of us and the transformations hitting our industry. The subject of Myers-Briggs came up and Linda made an interesting observation about the personality types you typically find in newsrooms and the kind of personality types best suited to our more turbulent media environment. They’re very different people.

As we talked, I thought, “This would be a great topic for a blog post.” But it was clear that Linda knew both more about Myers-Briggs than I do, and had far greater insight into the topic than I could muster.

So I asked Linda to write a guest post, and happily she agreed.

Here is her post:

Here’s what we’ve got: Thorough, exacting journalists who are systematic, hardworking, careful with detail; who want things to be grounded in fact and analyzed logically. Journalists who can thrive in chaos — as long as most of the things around them is structured and well-organized, preferably with deadlines. Journalists who can gather information steadily, then reach an assumption quickly. They’re prone to being comfortable with one (or, maybe) two interpretations of an idea or event, and “two sides to a story” is a religion. They work best with others who are realistic and focused on facts and results.

Here’s what we need: Journalists who are innovative, strategic, versatile, analytical and entrepreneurial. Journalists who enjoy working with others in start-up activities that require ingenuity and unusual resourcefulness; who create innovative, logical, organized and decisive strategic plans around valid concepts — and who can get them done. Journalists who can see a dozen possibilities when others can see only “two sides of a story.” Journalists who delight in a “slippery slope” just for the rush of the slide, and who then figure a way to bring it all together and get it done.

With apologies for a taking liberties with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators, which I pretty much lifted verbatim above, the men and women whose styles and personalities have been the strong foundations of our print newsrooms struggle to meet the expectations of the “cyber-fiber” integrated newsroom.

I once heard the statistic that 80 percent of our newsrooms were ISTJs (that’s Myers-Briggs shorthand for a version of the “what we’ve got” above.) I can’t cite the stat, but after almost four decades in newsrooms, I happily accept it as true. The ISTJs fiercely uphold the First Amendment, get things spelled right, get the facts, send the bad guys to jail, get the press started on time, and don’t screw up grandma’s obit. They keep their own counsel and aren’t particularly inclined to be openly enthusiastic.

(Think I’m kidding? Ever watched a roomful of journalists listening to a particularly rousing speaker? Nary a one nods, and heaven forbid that they applaud. I have watched 900 editors at an American Society of Newspaper Editors convention sit without a single clap of hands, not even a polite one, at the conclusion of a presidential — that’s U.S. president — speech. When those same editors gave Richard Nixon a standing ovation — years after he “retired” — I was sure I was at a publishers meeting.)

That’s who we are, and that made us a formidable force when we were exclusively about the two-dimensional print newspaper. That’s not going to get us into the new media world. We need — again apologies to Myers-Briggs — a whole bunch of ENTJs and ENTPs (see description above.) Since we can’t and shouldn’t replace the ISTJs, which would be not only insane, but impossible, and since personality styles are non-transferable (we’re born that way, folks), how do we go about building the newsroom staff we need?

Lobotomies are out. So, we do three things:

  1. Capitalize on the strengths of those exacting, fact-driven “traditional” journalists’ brains.
  2. Hire the innovative brains when the openings occur so we move toward a diverse mix of thinking styles and personalities.
  3. Teach new tricks.

*Capitalize: Just because they aren’t the first ones to grab the wireless laptop and video camera doesn’t mean our journalists can’t or won’t transform themselves into the new-fangled models. They will, and they’ll do it well. But, we can’t dump it all on them at once. Customize the explanation and the training; detail the facts and show the logic behind what we want them to do; explain the whys and the pros-and-cons. Develop realistic time lines and implementation plans. Create order and structure around the disruptions to the things they’ve been doing for years. Give them plenty of time to ponder and mull, read and research, ask questions, absorb and analyze. Challenge them to suggest other methods and solutions to arrive at similar goals. Give them plenty of time and room to let go of the past. They’ll get to the same place as the innovators; it just takes longer.

* Hire: We shouldn’t have to spend much time on this one since we’ve said it for decades. Let’s just do it: Instead of filling positions with the same kinds of people and job descriptions as the ones who vacated them, decide what you need to get the new jobs done, and hire for that position, not the one that’s open. None of us are going to get a bunch of additional bodies, so we have to hire smartly, and that may mean no more ISTJs for a while.

* Teach: Your “early adopters” and even your “early adapters” are going to be jazzed by the possibilities multiple platforms bring to “doing news.” They’ll be your leaders and drivers. But, give the ISTJ-type folks a chance. Grab a handful of the undesignated newsroom leaders — those reporters, photographers and copy editors who toil over the traditional print newspaper and to whom everyone listens no matter what. Hold them close. Bring them into the first brainstorming sessions. Give them the cool, new, expensive equipment. Challenge them to try it. Tell them that you need them to help lead the newsroom into the future. Instead of lamenting their lack of enthusiasm, make it important that they be among the leaders — and give them the opportunities to do some serious journalism with some nifty technology. It will work. And, once they find out that they can have fun and do serious stuff at the same time, they’ll tell the rest of the newsroom. Think of it as “Mikey likes it….”

If you haven’t taken Myers-Briggs before, I recommend it. It can be pretty insightful. It’s best if you take it through a professional environment where experts can help you understand better what it means and how to apply what you learn. That said, you might be able to find a free Myers-Briggs test through Google, which can still give you a basic idea of your personality type.

FWIW: I’m an ENTP.