A Design State of Mind
The Workings of a Newsroom

So I’m admittedly a young journalist with plenty left to learn about this industry and about the pulse of a newsroom. I’ve been in the professional setting for three years, and have learned a lot. I’ve made sure to pay attention to everything I can, and learn from each and every journalist I get to work with. And here are a few of my thoughts.

On Editors

The managing editors of each paper I work with have their own, distinct style. From loud and tough to more quiet but omnipresent, they’ve found a management style that works. And each of them worked like hell to get to the position they have now. More often than not, they worked at said newspaper for a while before rising in the ranks, and since entering the position, they’ve made it their business to know their communities and know what they need their staffs to be working on.

That said, it’s obvious to me they each demand a high level of respect.

Each and every page I design, I put together with the reader in mind. And at the guidance of these editors, I’m able to prioritize content based on what their community needs (and wants) to know. I trust their judgment, enter conversations with them when I need to, and work my ass off because that’s what they’re doing 50+ hours each week.

It kills me when others either ignore that knowledge or overwhelm it because they think they know better. Unless you have more time in that position, solving problems and building a relationship with said community, you don’t. And you should defer to that knowledge, especially if you can’t equal that experience. Not to say conversations or healthy debate shouldn’t happen, but let us not think we know better than those who have worked hard to know better. Disagree - respectfully. Let go of ego and step back. Make sure that argument is based on legitimate problems, not personal views or laziness.

I love that these managing editors work so hard to produce a great product. They give a lot to things like advertising issues, reader complaints, etc., tackling in-house conflict and economic strains, all to make sure the daily paper keeps arriving each morning. Just as we all should (and do, more often than not) work hard to get that paper up to a high standard.

That Being Said

I’m one of those people who wants to be busy. And one of the great joys I’ve found (as a small-newspaper cheerleader and advocate, especially) is tackling issues these editors come to me with. Whether it’s a special section they’re worried about filling, or a design issue they’re consistently running into, I love being someone they come to to solve said issues. They know what their paper needs, and I work like hell to make sure they get those requests met - pending how reasonable they are, etc. It’s the least I can do to help each paper reach the quality they - and their communities - deserve.

Something we all need to keep our eye on is fresh looks and relevancy with our print product. A sometimes dwindling piece of the puzzle, we need to make sure to innovate the print edition’s look and style and accessibility when we can. And if that means adding a rail to get relevant news up front, that’s what we do. If it means eliminating clunky flags in favor of more design-friendly looks, we should address possible changes. New fonts or styles that freshen the look and eliminate wasted space? Done.

We can’t forget that fresh looks can engage a younger, more fleeting audience. And honestly, evolution of look and style are what keep a newspaper a bit more relevant. Sure, it’s what we’re used to. But we can’t let our consistency or fear of change keep us from questioning what can be cut or added or changed to make sure the paper best serves the community.

I’m done rambling now. Here’s to the editors I respect and admire and learn from each and every day. Who give me chances and opportunities to push my own abilities. I appreciate you and everything you do.

The most important fight in journalism today isn’t between short vs. long-form publications, or fast vs. thorough newsrooms, or even incumbents vs. start-ups. The most important fight is between realists and nostalgists.
Clay Shirky (via thisismybyline)
Women are the diversity group that the newspaper business forgot to include.
From Tim Gallagher’s article, “Giving Women Their Due,” in July 2014 edition of Editor & Publisher

If this doesn’t sum up what I just ranted about ….

suntimesdarktimes:

Front pages, June 26, 2013. 

It’s All Part of the Big Picture

(Sorry for the rant in advance)

The other day, I was speaking with an editor of a smaller paper I design. I had just heard their photographer had been let go and wanted to hear the whole story. Apparently, it was an issue of money - as it always will be in this industry - and they were already feeling the loss.

It all made me … upset, to say the least. And it came amid the news that the Chicago Sun-Times had laid off its photo staff (which I ranted about here already). Today, I found Jim Romenesko’s link lamenting another photo desk loss in Georgia.

I’ve since been on many a tirade to whoever will listen that it’s absurd to think the photographers are expendable. I, like everyone else, understand financial strains on journalism and newsrooms right now. It’s not lost on me that, as a designer, my time is short here. Print production will fall whether I love it or believe in it. But let’s not underestimate how essential each and every piece of the puzzle is here in the newsroom.

I shall now rant:

The reporter, of course, seems most obvious, as they gather the sources, writing the story that the audience will consume. They garner reputations and encourage people to speak out and share their stories or opinions or experiences so that others can engage with it.

And their editors, they hold all the strings. They understand the importance of a story, of what the readership may need or want, and they hone what the reporter gives them into something clean and presentable. Something worth publishing.

Photographers, well, they have always impressed me. I’ve written, designed, edited, but never been able to shoot a great photo. I understand the very basics, but there’s something about those folks that just … leaves me in awe of what they can capture. Rather than having to also worry about garnering quotes and information, they dedicate their photo eye to getting images that compliment - or simply tell - the story. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that more often than not, it’s a photo or slideshow or gallery that will get your attention more than a 3,000 word masterpiece of terrific reporting. You look at a front page and it’s the art that’ll get you to look on.

And with that, the designer comes into play, making sure all this hard work shines. It’s our soul purpose to create a page that showcases all their efforts. We should always give 120%, because each story and photo was created with that enthusiasm by many others. Make sure the headlines pop and dazzle, so folks will want to read more. Play up local photos and give them the size they deserve. Edit carefully so no error goes through.

And behind the scenes, of course, production and advertising fuel our fires and enable us all to keep doing what we love.

I simply don’t understand how others don’t see how each and every piece of a newsroom is essential. That we all must give our all to ensure our product lives for as long as it can. We cannot just lament the loss of our former prowess, but dedicate all we can to make sure we give it a reason to live on. And by eliminating what is, in my opinion, one of the most important parts - the photo department - these papers are only speeding up their demise. Yes, video is important, and yes cuts need to be made. But please realize how a great photo will sell more papers or garner more clicks than a headline or screen shot. And that a great photo comes from a photographer, not a reporter who’s already acquiring quotes and rapport and observation they’ll need for their story.

I love you, you photojournalists, and admire deeply what you’re able to do.

Just some food for thought for you journos out there.

Newsroom Promotion Over Here

So as has happened before, I’m kickstarting my work ethic and social media motivation, revisiting the Tumblr accounts I’ve (woefully) abandoned over the past few months.

Here’s to not letting that happen again!

And I shall now shamelessly promote them here, to get a few more followers. Thanks in advance!

For great coverage from the fine folks on the news and features desk at the Boulder Daily Camera.

A collection of quirky posts, quality tunes and great writing/art, follow the Colorado Daily’s work. (A great idea for you CU Buffs fans out there.)

For incredible sports coverage, in the know on everything sports-related (but especially those CU Buffs), check out the Buffzone tumblr.

A Shout Out

Here at the Prairie Mountain Publishing office, I’ve been for the past few weeks working on getting our paper’s Tumblr up and going again, full speed ahead. So here’s me linking out to them, reminding everyone to follow them on tumblr!

Check out the Daily Camera’s main page here.

For the Colorado Daily - CU-Boulder’s newspaper, go here.

We’ve got an incredible staff here, filled with designers, reporters, editors and photographers who live and breathe the news, making their sites that much better on here.

A Step in a Web-Centric Direction

Well, after a series of web meetings with the design staff, our presentation crew here in Boulder is going to be producing so pretty amazing stuff this year. I have a feeling our team will shine in 2012, and I’m hoping to find my place in the new web world we’re entering.

For starters, my new opportunity:

I’ve worked with our main editor here at the Camera, and he’s agreed to let me take over the Daily Camera’s Tumblr! While not quite in full motion yet, I’ve got the log in and a few ideas, and I’m hoping this all goes well!

Follow it at dailycamera.tumblr.com.

For anyone with suggestions on how news organizations should post their content to a forum like Tumblr, let me know!

Ironic to post to my … Tumblr account, I thought this article was great for journalists and newsrooms branching into worlds like Tumblr and WordPress. I know I’ve been among the throngs of journos hesitant to allow blogs into our world because they aren’t as credible/informative/trustworthy, etc. But I’d also hate for people to view my site as this!

So here’s some food for thought that explains to us - the more skeptical - that content is content.

Let’s work on making our systems more integrated and faster. Help your readers come to realize that all of your content is fast and awesome. It’ll take some rebranding work, sure, but I bet our industry is capable of it.”