#WAShooting and the need to have a prepared newsroom

January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dave Boardman, executive editor and Sr. V.P. of the Seattle Times Co., stopped by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin this past week. He now officially oversees our newspaper which basically means that our publisher reports to him in Seattle. This was his first visit in this capacity.

As part of his visit he made a presentation to the U-B newsroom. The topic of his presentation was the Seattle Times coverage of the shooting deaths of 4 Lakewood police officers and the subsequent manhunt for Maurice Clemmons, the suspect behind the shootings. Their coverage was eventually awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Dave talked about how the Times had a plan – tools, training, leadership and dedication – in place that allowed them to react as soon as the first trickles of information about the shooting came into the sparsely populated newsroom.


Dave said that very few calls had to be made to get reporters, photographers and editors into the newsroom. As soon as the news of the shooting hit the public, members of the newsroom began making themselves available.


The newsroom leaders responded quickly by creating teams of reporters/editors/photogs to cover the various aspects of the story. One group was tasked the job of getting background information on the suspected murderer. Another teams was directed to compile information on the slain officers. And photographers and videographers hit the streets. Dave himself manned the Twitter feed.


The obvious one is Twitter. The Seattle Times team quickly settled on a hashtag, #WAShooting, which was soon used by other news organizations and by the general public to reference the Lakewood shooting coverage. Dave talked about how he was on Twitter duty for about 15 hours with the help of an assistant who would quickly verify information that was being disseminated via Twitter. This allowed Dave to clarify and correct misinformation. The ability to do this and to broadcast new details as they became available made a convert of Dave.

Seattle Times also has a very useful intranet site that is accessible by all their employees. It is typically used for inter-company communications but also is used as a way to share files and notes. So during their coverage of the shooting and the manhunt for Clemmons they used the space to share notes and updates. The site also serves as a gateway to a number of searchable databases which were extensively used to identify the slain police officers, Clemmons and his family.


Boardman mentioned that they typically cannot afford to send reporters to training workshops so they often do in-house training – often during lunchtime.

What it all means for the U-B

We need to put a plan in place that will allow us to easily and quickly get informative updates to the community in case of an emergency or breaking news situation. In the recent past, we have relied on Twitter to get update out but unfortunately, those updates have only been visible on Twitter which is of absolutely no use to the vast majority of Walla Wallans who don’t have a Twitter account.

A little over a year ago, there was a police standoff in Walla Walla.  I found myself directly across the street armed with my cell phone (at that point I did not have a smart phone so was only able to post to Twitter via TXT message) and Flip camera. The only people that saw those updates were those in the community that had a Twitter account AND happened to be logged in at that moment AND were also following the U-B Twitter feed. A couple of hours later I was able to edit together a quick video. But that is hardly the kind of breaking news updates that are required and expected by our customers.

We’ve also relied on Facebook but again, despite Facebook’s popularity there are always those without accounts or those that happen to not be connected at a particular time.

I will set up a front page template that incorporates our Twitter feed and possibly some form of liveblogging widget like CoveritLive or ScribbleLive (which we used effectively during the recent mid-term elections.) When the time comes we will be able to easily switch to this template and have live updates appear on  the front page of our website.

In the last couple of years we have held some in-house video training and we may expand it to include mobile and social media reporting tools like Twitter and Facebook.

This will most likely also require our company to purchase some smartphones and/or internet ready netbooks.

First step is to come up with a written plan and ask that upper management sign off on it and make any necessary investments. I’m very confident that it will happen especially after Dave Boardman’s presentation.


We know social media and we must embrace it

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Working for a news organization in a small rural town, we have been at the forefront of social media in our small city. We were on Twitter back when there were a total of about 5 results when you did a Twitter search for Walla Walla . And while were weren’t the first company in Walla Walla to jump onto Facebook we were the first to use it as a promotional platform for local businesses and partners.  How many community news organizations can say they have a social media coordinator on staff? And still we find ourselves on the outside looking in when social media workshops are hosted locally.

What to do? Host our own workshop is what to do. In collaboration with the local chamber of commerce we will be hosting an lunch-time workshop presented to local business leaders. I’ll be making the opening presentation and Jeremy Gonzalez will be covering how we are using Facebook, video and Twitter to help connect local audiences with local businesses. I’ll post a follow up after the workshop. What’s that saying? If you can’t join them, beat them? Or at least host a workshop to demonstrate your social media expertise.

Social media opportunities in local online business directories

February 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

Recently had a look at the Ellington CMS which is built on the open-source framework Django. A very slick CMS with many of the features that our news org is looking for. However it is a bit out of our price-range. Granted our price-range is pretty close to single digit. As in $0. Not really but you get the idea.

Also got a chance to see their business directory product called Marketplace. Again a very slick product. Looks to be very user friendly on the customer side and very easy on the business/vendor side. When a local business buys a listing they get a user-name and password that allows them to add as much or as little information about their business as they want. And they can update the information as often or as infrequent as they want. They can also upload photos/videos of their products or services. They can post coupons and information about ongoing sales. How about adding a customer service component?

It got me thinking about Twitter. Recently it doesn’t take much to get me to think about Twitter but this particular thought about how to integrate Twitter as social media/customer service platform into an online business directory. How about if Twitter or CoverIt Live was integrated into the business listing. Or how about a live video stream using Mogulus or Ustream. It would add a human face to the business. Maybe the business can set up a schedule when someone would be available to answer questions – “Customer service avalable Mon, Wed., Fri. 2-3 p.m. Sure individual business owners could set up their own Twitter/Mogulus accounts separate from their business directory listing. But many small businesses have a hard enough time updating an online directory listing or a website much less have the time or inclination to create yet another account on some web service they know very little about. This way it is already built in.

Would that be attractive to local businesses? Would it be added value to their basic listing? Perhaps someone is already doing this?

2009 – New year brings new goals

January 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

New years’ resolutions. We all make them. I’ve made my fair share of them and I’m pretty sure my success rate is in the single digits percentage-wise. But that is not going to stop me this year. This year I’ve got 3 sets of resolutions – family, personal, work. My family resolutions mean the most to me and are the most personal (yeah even more personal than my “personal” resolutions) so I’ll keep those private. But I’ll share the others.

Personal resolutions for 2009

  • Work out and lose 10 lbs. In actuality, I should lose about 15-20 lbs but 2009 isn’t about torturing myself.
  • Blog/Podcast at least 3 times per week. That includes this blog and a couple others I’ve floating around.
  • Complete one creative project per month. That would include: screenprinting, music, video and writing.
  • Read 2 books per month. At the very least, read one per month. We’ve got a bookcase full of Maria‘s books that I should dive into.
  • Join at least one adult sports league. I’m looking at you basketball. 

Work resolutions for 2009

  • Grow our Walla Walla social network to 1,000 members by the end of the year. We are currently at 35. So ….
  • From the social network spin off a Walla Walla Wiki page.
  • Drive more traffic (a lot more) to our online sports content. It drives me mad how little traffic it currently generates. That means expanding our coverage to include “live” score updates from games.
  • Help move the newsroom to more mobile reporting. That means laptops, text messaging, Twittering, live video. Which means using services such as Twitter, Seesmic, CoveritLive, Flickr, Ustream, Twitpic and others.
  • Increase traffic to ubvideo.tv by 25-30% by year end. More quality, engaging, informative, and yes, entertaining videos with better promotion.

So there they are. There they are indeed. The difference this year with my resolutions is that I am broadcasting it to the world. In the past I could eventually “lose” my list and therefore not feel obliged to complete any of them.

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