« The Dead Governors are, well, dead. | Main | Vermont YouTube of the Day »

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Job Change

Well, it's official. This week I started my new job here at Seven Days — I'm the paper's first online editor.

I just called 7D a "paper," but in fact all newspapers are now morphing into multimedia enterprises that repurpose their content for a variety of platforms.

I have to talk like that now that I'm an editor.

We're still working out how this change will affect my writing, though it's already clear that I'll be writing significantly less than I have been for the last few years. Enjoy my cover story this week — it'll be my last for awhile.

I'm doing a lot of big picture thinking right now, so if anyone wants to offer suggestions, I'm all ears. I have a lot of ideas, experiments I want to try, things I've been wanting us to do for years that for whatever reason, we just haven't been able to do. Like embedding links in the text of our stories — I actually learned how to do that the other day, and have finally started embedding some links! Yay! An itty-bitty baby step, obviously, but exciting if you're me.

One of my new responsibilities is putting together an email newsletter that we're launching this week. You can sign up to receive it on the 7D website. I'm interested to hear what people think. I was skeptical of this idea at first, but I actually had a lot of fun putting together the first one. So sign up for it and leave your pithy comments here, please.

January 11, 2007 at 01:38 PM in House Rules | Permalink

Comments

Congrats Cathy! Good luck.

By the way, great article this week. Well done!

Posted by: mwb | Jan 11, 2007 2:19:49 PM

It's a perfect fit for you. Congratulations!

Along the "big picture" line, I'm sure you've already seen this, but Wired editor (and Long Tail author) Chris Anderson has been blogging about that magazine's brainstorm-inspired ideas around transparency and fully utilizing the online medium. Well worth your time...
http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/12/what_would_radi_1.html

Posted by: Bill Simmon | Jan 11, 2007 5:29:44 PM

Oh please, get some feeds for the content. Features, Calendar, Food ... all the sections. Atom, preferably, of course.

Congrats and good luck!

Posted by: jsled | Jan 11, 2007 6:47:27 PM

Congratulations! I loved your cover story this week. It puts a human face on a deeply political issue. You have real gift for "finding" the stories about "real life" heroes in Vermont. I hope this type of journalism meets modern ethnography continues. Even in times of national and international crisis, it is so important to hear, as one of my favorite historians Howard Zinn would call it, the "People's History."

Posted by: Little Miss Curious | Jan 11, 2007 9:54:53 PM

Okay Online Editor, here's a pet peeve of mine that many (perhaps most) print publications that have online presences are guilty of...

In your cover story this week (which was excellent, BTW), check out the last paragraph of the first section of the online version of the article. You see the hyphen in the word "Attor-ney?" I assume that's a hold over from a line break in the print version that wasn't fixed before being put online. There's at least one other example of this in the same article, maybe more (it was a cursory search).

Articles need another proofread before they go up online. It's weird to me that so many publications (inc. national ones) worry so much about how the print version looks but are careless about the web version. How hard is that to fix? It seems like it would take an additional 5 minutes per aticle to clean that stuff up. Am I wrong about that? I'm asking because it's so pervasive.

Chop chop, Cathy! Get to work! :)

Posted by: Bill Simmon | Jan 12, 2007 2:07:52 AM

Ask and you shall receive answers from the web editor!

Re: feeds: You are not alone in wanting us to be feed-capable. It is a constant source of frustration here that we are not. If it were easy to fix, it would have been fixed already, but alas, it is not. I believe the problem is related to our CMS (content management system). We are working on it, but thanks for keeping the pressure on.

Re: proofreading the web: Another source of frustration! But this one is a little easier to fix. I will indeed be cleaning up stories online, though it is harder than you'd think to keep this from happening. The fact that it happens often at print newspaper sites tells me that many papers are in the same situation that we are.

That is, the person who uploads the paper's content to the web is not an editorial person--she's a production person. And she doesn't have time (nor the copy editor's eye) to proofread the text she's uploading. Ideally, she puts it up, then somebody proofs it before it goes live. For a variety of reasons relating to work flow and our CMS, this has not been possible. We proof it as soon as we can, but sometimes errors slip through.

I'm hoping to fix this process, but it's a systematic change that will probably take some time and tinkering. The simple changes you've just described, though, I can now make. Should just take a minute.

The problem before was that we didn't have a me to do it. The me who will do it was too busy reporting stories.

Thanks for taking the time to write. Keep the feedback coming!

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 9:21:42 AM

Re: proofreading:
More thoughts. I fixed that hyphen, and I scanned the story but didn't find any more examples of that particular error.

I'm working on a new system that will catch that error in the future.

Also, in the near future, I'll be tinkering with the online layout, to make stories more readable, more user-friendly online.

Bill, back to your comments — I think papers (especially small ones) have been slow to address these problems because you have to actually create a new position for someone to take on this task; i.e. an online editor. And it's a specialized position, so it's not cheap. And this person isn't — directly — an income generator.

So if you're already stretched thin, it's tough (especially for less web savvy publishers and editors) to see the logic of creating a new position. I think that's changing industry-wide right now. Obviously it's already changed at the bigger operations, but I think it's filtering down as people are realizing that they need to compete online.

But it's a slow process. This change here has been in the works for some time, but since it's an institutional shift, it can only happen so quickly.

Back to work!

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 9:53:07 AM

Bill, I just found an excellent example of the trend you mentioned. Look, a poorly formatted article about Philedelphia's new multimedia ad campaign. The story is about the new "uwishunu" campaign but there's not a single link to the uwishunu site.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 10:21:55 AM

Cathy,

Congrats! That is awesome. I know you'll come up with great ideas.

I echo your comments on how challenging it is for small papers to get up to speed. You really do need to create at least one position to manage online content and features to do it right. And, given the disputed return on investments made on the web, it's a tough sell.

Here's a thoughts for the web editor: Any chance of organizing live chat discussions on certain topics or stories? It would cool, for example, to have a chat discussion with a writer, editor or source after a story hits the street.

Posted by: Scott Monroe | Jan 12, 2007 10:30:25 AM

Hey Scott!

re: live chats: I'll keep it in mind, though frankly if anyone wants to talk with an editor or a writer here, all they have to do is email. It's generally pretty easy to get in touch with us.

A chat with a source might be more interesting.

I'll think about it. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 10:56:52 AM

Congratulations on the new position. Good choice on 7D's part.

As a suggestion, have you considered starting a VT-specific wiki? There is a lot of good info on Wikipedia but there is still a lot of minutiae about Vermont that doesn't make it onto Wikipedia. One dedicated to just Vermont topics might make for an interesting destination and community.

Posted by: Murf | Jan 12, 2007 11:08:26 AM

There's actually a Burlington wiki out there, but I'm not sure how many people use it.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 11:19:42 AM

Congrats on the job switch Cathy! It sounds like a perfect fit for you although we will miss seeing your writing in print as much. Ah well, we still have this here lovely blog! Can't wait to see the bigger and better changes to the web content! Yipeeeee!!!!

Posted by: Eva Deadbeat | Jan 12, 2007 12:15:45 PM

I could, of course, go on for days.

You should be operating from an open-source CMS. Then you won't be beholden to a single code-provider. But that may be outside your jurisdiction (of course, you can use it to bludgeon people when you want functionality).

How about access to archives. Site-wide. There are a number of dead links strewn about the web that used to point to old articles that are no longer accessible.

The problem with being a "web editor" is that the entire workflow process of 7D needs to change to be in line with a content-creation company instead of a tree-munching company. Editorial, Advertising, and Distribution would all have to be rethought and rewired. From what I know you guys are starting that. But the point is, a new coat of paint won't do it.

The flow of content is a good starting point though, if you can get to the point where you copy-edit once and don't have your underwear showing from line-breaks online then you'll have made a huge leap.

Some resources you might find useful are linked in my ma.gnolia links under media: http://ma.gnolia.com/people/Gahlord/tags/media

Take care of the no-brainers and due-diligence stuff (content archive, feeds, and other basic services). But stay as focused on the big picture, and wrestle the workflow into order. You will be bailing water until you do that.

Good luck, congrats, and I agree with all who say you are the best choice to lead 7D editorial into the online world.

Coffee or beer buys you a load of opinionated opinions anytime.

Posted by: g-lo | Jan 12, 2007 12:32:46 PM

Congrats, Cathy!
Is that your first newsletter I just received in my personal e-mail account? Lots of fun stuff, might head to that Zappa cover band tonight myself and write about it in gadabout.

Posted by: gadabout (sky) | Jan 12, 2007 12:49:05 PM

Coffee or beer buys you a load of opinionated opinions anytime.

Sounds like a business expense to me...

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 12, 2007 12:52:21 PM

Congrats Cathy!

Posted by: Vermonter | Jan 12, 2007 1:53:35 PM

I'm sorry to read that you are being pulled from writing in-depth articles. This week's article was a great read.

Questions, I don't see a way to easily print or email an article. I assume this was a deliberate choice by Seven Days. And, would you consider adding comments to the articles? The only feedback from the community will be the letters to the editor that 7Days opts to print.

I do have a question for the City of Burlington. Do they really think that 600-800 sq ft housing units are going to attract long term residents who will stabalize a neighborhood? These units certainly won't attract families. They'll attract single individual or a young couple who will sell within 3-5 years once they start having children. And if they don't sell, they'll convert the unit back to a rental and start deferring maintenance.

Unfortunately, neighborhood stabilization is more apt to occur when the homes chopped up into small units revert back to single family dwellings. Gentrification has always displaced low-income renters.

Ironically enough, once Mr. O’Callaghan graduates and gets hired on as a social worker, he's the perfect buyer for a condo conversion. I certainly hope he finds works in his chosen field.

Posted by: Diedre | Jan 13, 2007 11:43:00 AM

Cathy,

Congratulations on the new gig. Hey, how about a story on the little network of 24 hour sports stations that is doing a simply amazing job of covering local sports in the area? Hmmmmmmmmmm, who could that be?

Posted by: Chris Fells | Jan 13, 2007 9:42:26 PM

Congratulations Cathy... good and bad news for us readers. Your writing will be missed, but whatever projects you pursue in your new role will hopefully more than make up for it... no pressure! ;-) -Michael

Posted by: Michael Wood-Lewis | Jan 14, 2007 9:40:46 AM

Questions, I don't see a way to easily print or email an article. I assume this was a deliberate choice by Seven Days. And, would you consider adding comments to the articles? The only feedback from the community will be the letters to the editor that 7Days opts to print.

Actually, there is an easy way to print articles. There's a little print button up at the top of each page (above the header). Click on it for a printer friendly version. I know, it's not the most intuitive thing, but I think, like many things on our site, it was a stop-gap solution.

As for email, no, you can't email stories. And you can't leave comments. I hope to change both of those things. In fact, we've wanted to change them both for a while. It's not deliberate that we don't have those features (though of course it's nice that you assume we're smarter than we are). No, I think it's another issue related to our content management system, though frankly, I'm not positive. I'm looking into it. Because I know I email stories from news sites pretty much every day. In fact, I just sent one this morning. And often leave comments, when that's possible. The only thing I know for sure is that we've looked into doing both those things, and fixing the problem was more difficult than we'd hoped.

Also, I'm glad people seemed to find my cover story interesting. I should clarify that I won't stop writing, I'll just be writing less. Which means don't stop sending me ideas.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 14, 2007 10:15:36 AM

Congratulations!

I'd would love to have a good directory of locally produced goods (art, crafts, produce) and services with pictures and profiles, but I guess that would conflict with advertisers.

I think you should show videos of my cats.

Posted by: Molly | Jan 15, 2007 7:21:43 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.