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Archive for the 'Akron' Category

Kudos to Kent News Net coverage of riots

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I first saw the coverage Kent News Net had of the riots at Kent State this weekend on Twitter. My immediate reaction was, “come on guys.” Not about the newsroom, which was pumping out updates at rapid-fire pace, but about the future alumni of my alma mater. People already associate the school with police (err national guardsmen) in riot gear. But at least they were fighting for more than the right to party obnoxiously.

But I digress.

My next thought, when I clicked through and checked out the Web site, was, “wow, these kids (that would be the Stater/TV2/BSR reporters) are doing an AWESOME job covering this.” The page was — and still is — decked in videos and photo galleries.

The next morning after I noticed the story on my Twitter feed, my mom was telling me about how the web editor was quoted in the Akron Beacon Journal’s story about the coverage/riots:

The Kent Police Department would not make a statement Saturday evening, but student journalists at the Daily Kent Stater and KentNewsNet.com were out in full force, covering events on their Web site and updating the community regularly on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/kent360.).

Kristine Gill, editor of KentNewsNet.Com, said she and others went to investigate after seeing flames from their office at Franklin Hall.

”The flames were filling the street, like 15 feet high, and kids were throwing furniture on it and hanging from trees and screaming ‘KSU’ over and over again,” she said.

She said students told her the fire was started because police were harassing students on their front lawns and firing rubber bullets. Gill said some students showed her welts.

I know just last week, one of my former journalism professors said she was teaching those students about Twitter. Although I have said recently that even I am sick of hearing about Twitter these days, this is a great great great example of its power. Read back through their posts that night and you can feel the adrenaline rush. And then in the days since, you can see the rest of the story unfold with statements from the police chief and university president tweeted to the more than 300 followers. (I don’t know, but the KNN staffers might, how many people were following pre-riots?)

This is exactly what Twitter can be and should be used for in the news media. It’s not the only thing Twitter is good for, but with this coverage they have proven it’s a great tool and likely turned many new skeptics into converts.

I just wanted to take this space to highlight the awesome work of these student journalists.

ABJ’s got your Ohio politics news covered

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

The Akron Beacon Journal has launched a new blog/politics site to cover the 2008 campaign in the swing state that decided the ’04 election. But it’s not just presidents, it’s local issues and candidates and more.

ABJ new ohio politics site
(The big white space is an ad that’s blocked on my computer, not a flaw in their design.)

From their announcement story:

Today, Ohio.com will launch politics.ohio.com, a new site dedicated to getting the scoop on the issues that affect the average voter. It will scour other newspapers’ Web sites and provide links to stories to help voters make informed decisions on topics and candidates.

But it won’t stop there. Political junkies also will find the details they crave such as links to Ohio government sites, including the governor’s office, the House and Senate and the Ohio Supreme Court. Voters will be able to find links to election sites at all of Ohio’s 88 counties, as well as the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and links to each presidential candidate’s official Web site.

Take a look: politics.ohio.com.

All local fronts; even the big dawgs are doing it these days

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

I saw this post about the Cleveland Plain Dealer shifting to all local fronts.

That both surprises and excites me.

While I always respected the journalism the PD did, it was never my paper of choice. I favored the Akron Beacon Journal because it felt more like “my” paper. Even though I realized it was a metro — not as major as the PD, but a pretty respectable size — it also wasn’t afraid to be Akron’s community paper. That “community” mission was not a vibe I ever got reading the PD. (And not just because Akron wasn’t their community — they laid claim to all of NE Ohio — but it was just their approach. I don’t know how to explain it. It almost felt like it was trying to be something it wasn’t, at least to me.)

Either way, I never felt a “connection” with the PD. That’s why I still read Ohio.com almost daily, but I can’t remember the last time I stopped in at Cleveland.com. I still gleefully pick up the Beacon every time I’m home. The PD? Not so much.

I’m glad to see the PD embracing the hyper-local, which is what newspapers are best at providing and the one thing readers can’t get anywhere else.

For me? I like that we nearly always run all-local fronts. We do run occasional stories from the GNS Washington bureau, but specific to Indiana and often with further localization added. When a national story breaks, it’s online during the day, and if it’s big enough, we follow-up with something local for the paper. Sometimes, on major issues of national importance, we’ll run a charticle version of the wire story with some quick hit points: news, impact, reaction — all held to the cover for maximum readability.

Recently, I read a post with the idea that we should abolish the idea of the A-section being considered the “most important” and yet stuffed with national wire stories that many people have already read, seen or heard before the paper lands on their stoop in favor of pushing more local stories.

I don’t know where I stand on that one, but it’s something to ponder. I both agree that it’s silly to fill our papers with national wire copy many people have already read, but I also think there’s a place for that there. Lots of people haven’t heard, or they saw it on TV and want more than the sound-bite version. I know, it’s growing increasingly less necessary with the Internet, etc., but I do think we should fill that need as much as possible as well.

On the other hand, there is so much news every day — and the amount is only growing — that it’s overwhelming to many people. It’s easy to become apathetic when you try and keep track of everything. Newspapers have always done the job of filtering down a list of most important or I guess, “If you don’t pay any other attention to the national news, these are things you should probably know” stories that occupy a few pages in the paper. To charge a premium on the ads to accompany those stories, I do agree, is disingenuous because their importance continues to dwindle, but I’m not ready to throw out all the national wire stories. They still serve a purpose.

I usually read the paper “Front page, Opinions page (inside A), back of A (jump from front), Local cover, Local inside, glance at Biz…” I’m not the typical news consumer, but notice I still spend the most time with the local news. I also read a lot more news than most people and more frequently. I skip national wire in the paper because I’ve already read or seen most of that news elsewhere. State wire I’m more apt to at least glance through in print, but we run that in our local section not our A-section. This is also assuming I read in print, which I do probably 4/7 days a week. Otherwise online, it’s top 10 slots, local news beyond those stories and then opinions. And that’s about where it ends.

As for getting more local content? I couldn’t agree more. Though I’m not sure where the man-power for that will come from. I don’t believe the “we’re doing more with less” garbage. No, something’s got to give. I digress. Something I’ve come to love here in Lafayette, for better or worse, is that people read what we write. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out at a meeting, event, whatever and heard the phrase “Well I read in the newspaper that…” And as much as people will complain about us not covering this or doing too much on that, they read it. They talk about it. Months later, people still remember me from “that column you wrote about moving to Lafayette.” Last week, I was at one of the schools attending a parent booster club meeting. One of the mothers, whom I’d used to illustrate a story on parent involvement the week prior and who’d had her picture on A1, told me everyone commented on it to her. She said she was even stopped by a total stranger in Wal-Mart to talk about it.

People want to feel connected to their communities. The New York Times isn’t going to write about the fire that took the families Christmas presents away in a town smaller than my elementary school. But that’s all those townspeople are talking about for weeks. The Washington Post isn’t going to write about your local standout basketball player signing with a university. But when you stop in the school and ask what’s going on, that’s the first thing anyone will mention.

I know we hear a lot about the demise of foreign reporting. I don’t necessarily disagree. But I do think that newspapers like the PD do a better service to local communities by writing about what they know best: their own people and places. If you have more resources devoted to local reporting, you’ll find more people with stories to tell. It’s bound to happen. And those are the ones people clip out and paste up in their scrapbook to keep forever. That’s the kind of news people want anyway.

(Also this post’s title is a reference to the “Dawg pound“, i.e. the Browns, in Cleveland. Get it? It occurred to me most people wouldn’t. So I wanted to point that out. lol.)

Why the rush to move on?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I went home this weekend to Akron for Thanksgiving. I’m working Christmas, so I don’t know when I’ll be home next, but likely not this year.

Good thing. It seemed everyone I talked to asked when I was coming home (as in, moving back to Ohio) or when I was moving on (as in, how long do you think you’ll actually stay at the paper? are you looking for another job yet?).

Woah, back up everybody.

I haven’t even been in my position a year. I’ve only just gotten familiar enough to not mapquest every place I need to be. I finally know the different school boards members and temperaments and the 30-some principals in this county by name and sight — and they know me! And I actually understand the issues (OK, most many? of the issues) driving things happening today.

I’m finally comfortable with where I fit in and what I should and can do here. And already, everybody wants to know what my next move is?

Why the rush?

As I was explaining to one of my friends (also a j-school grad) when we met up this weekend, I don’t really know for certain what my next move will be or even when. But now is definitely too soon. There’s still much for me to learn here. But as I always intended (yet apparently didn’t articulate well to anyone back home?), I’m going to play it by ear. I’ll just know when it’s time or when something too good to pass up comes along. I mean, sheesh! I started here on Martin Luther King Day. That’s mid-January, folks. As in, it hasn’t even been a year since graduation let alone starting my job. I’m still recovering from my last job hunt, and you all are ready to see what I’ll do next?

It kind of freaks me out how universal everyone’s assumption was that I am biding my time until I find something else. I’m not. Trust me. I wouldn’t have taken a job for that purpose. I didn’t. Yes, it’s Indiana. (But the city and people and paper are nice.) Yes, it’s only about 40,000 circulation. (But the push is for enterprise, and I’m being given opportunities I’d never get anywhere else, especially not at a larger organization.) Yes, it’s six hours from home, and nearly all my best friends are scattered far, far away. (This sucks, trust me I just got in from that drive and am not looking forward to an eight hour shift tonight coming off it, but I needed to move away and prove to myself I could.) But get this, I like it. As I told my grandma when the topic came up, I’m doing exactly what I thought I’d be doing and most of what I hoped I’d get to do — and more.

So everybody, calm down. I’m 22. Think about that. At a minimum, I’ll be working the next 50 years. I have plenty of time to see what’s out there. But in order to do whatever that “next” is well, I need a strong foundation. To get that, I need to take the time to develop and not rush and stumble along just because of others’ expectations for me.

A step in the right direction at Ohio.com

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

OK, so I rant about the Beacon Journal Web site a lot.

I’ve discussed some of the practices that annoy me on every site, but especially Ohio.com because I frequent it.

But tonight, I popped over there and noticed something positive I wanted to note.

Beacon Journal wises up

Did you notice it? I did immediately. And I had a hunch from the headline, which was confirmed when I clicked through, this story was actually a follow-up to the subject of my previous rant about the Beacon Journal’s video practices.

In fact, in that rant I specifically made this suggestion about the video: “There was no indication on the story list. Come on, guys, you should advertise this to entice me to click!”

Tonight, they made a note about the video, in the headline, right out on front! I literally smiled and said “yay!” to myself about that. I wouldn’t have even clicked on the link had I not seen that note. Instead, I wanted to watch the video, whatever it was. That’s why pointing out there’s a video is a good idea. People love video.

UNFORTUNATELY, it’s the same video I ranted about before. :( I watched about a minute hoping maybe they had re-cut it or edited it down some.

Not a total win, but this is a definite step in the right direction.

(And just to drive the point home I’m not picking on the beacon and this really is a pet peeve of mine… I actually made the SAME comment about noting video in the headline of stories to my own managing editor last week about our site. It just makes sense.)

Ohio.com redesign, initial thoughts

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

I haven’t had time to properly look through it, and I’m not quite sure when it officially launched as I haven’t been keeping up with my back-home reading, but The Beacon Journal got a make-over.

Thank you, Journalism gods.

It still retains some of the same feeling and colors it had before, but it’s much more clean and accessible. I wish I had a screen shot of the “before” to compare, but basically anyone who has ever seen the blah Knight-Ridder template that they all seemed to utilize knows what I’m talking about. Don’t remember: The Philadelphia Inquirer is still using it, although theirs seems a bit more organized than Ohio.com did before.

A few things I like:

  • I’m a fan of the drop-down menu. I think this is probably the best way to get in a lot of links without cluttering your page or making me click through a few pages for what I want.

  • I also appreciate that the content rules and the ads largely play second fiddle. (I’ve been growing increasingly annoyed by newspaper Web site ads of recent. Look for a diatribe about IndyStar.com soon.)
  • The photo gallery template is simple, links back to the story and tells me how many photos I’m in for. That largely satisfies my preferances. Though, it would be nice to quickly see the whole group at once.
  • Love the Most Read Stories box. I think every paper should do this, and hate that my paper doesn’t. We get an e-mail every day telling us the stories with the top hits, but we don’t pull them out online, even though I think readers would be as interested as we are.


  • I like the quick take blog links on the left side of every page. It’s a clean list even if it’s a bit long. I don’t like that I can’t see what’s been updated recently.

  • I like that it seems they’ve finally resigned themselves to allowing comments on every story. But I happen to like how we do it at the J&C where you see the most recent comments on the page. I don’t think you should have to jump through another hoop to see or join the conversation. Also, as with most topix comments, the “Read all XX comments” isn’t obvious and blends into the box above. But they do get some bonus points for having in their abbreviated terms “Be polite.
  • The “Inside Ohio.com” box at the bottom of the pages is a good idea, but it comes off looking like a cheap knock off of the NYTimes menu.

Things I’m not digging so much:

  • Why is the multimedia page so boring?! This should be the most exciting stuff. Where are the pictures? Where’s the fun? (Ditto on the local news page.)

  • In fact, where the heck are the photos? I can’t find any on any stories I clicked on except the dominant one online.
  • Speaking of that story and photos: Why is it sandwiched between two ads?! I completely overlooked it at first because I figured it was just an ad. I remember learning not to even let photos and ad stacks bump when I took news design. I know this isn’t as true of the Web, but surely stacking it in the middle isn’t an effective display.
  • In that same story, they say “County Council is expected to act on the 40-page document Monday. (A copy of the plan is available at http://www.co. summit.oh.us/executive/pdfs/ DOD/Lakemore%20 Development%20Area%20(7-07).pdf.)” Two thoughts on this one: First, make it a link! Second, get a copy of the plan and pull it out in an impact box for easy dissection and so I know it’s there.

I haven’t had time to really look below the surface or get a feel for daily use and how I like it yet, but right now I’m going to say it’s a huge improvement. Good job, guys.

For more on the redesign, read the FAQ.

The unintended but better story

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

I write this post on Roy Peters Clark’s Writing Tools blog yesterday, and his post “When Journalists Use Archetypes” reminded me immediately of a time when I had to make the same choice that student did: Do I go with the touching, cute story or the warts and all version?

I took one summer course other than my internship in college. It was feature writing (at 8:30 a.m.!), and it was the summer I was serving as managing editor at the Stater. I liked the class for two reasons:

First, unlike feature writing in the fall or spring, we turned around a story a week instead of a story a month with endless revisions. I have a tendency to grow weary of a story I work on too long, favoring instead a more immediate turn around and revision process. Because the semester was shorter, we pitched the idea to the professor, reported and wrote it that same week. We pitched the next story and worked on both the revision and the new story simultaneously. It was more time consuming each week, but it was a more newspaper-like than feature writing in spring and fall.

That was my second reason for liking the class. I had been a magazine major because I wanted to do these feature stories. It wasn’t until my professor, Mitch McKenney (who was then the deputy metro editor at the Beacon Journal and has since become the features editor), had us read newspaper feature after newspaper feature, many from his own experience where he could elaborate on the reporting and editing processes, that I realized you can do those types of stories at a newspaper. You can do those types of stories better on a beat because you understand the material and the people and the issues that much better. I also saw that you can write interesting features in a non-traditional form or in very few words. Until that class, I had never really been exposed to that. So it was a turning point for me. It was after taking that class that I changed my major from magazine to newspaper (though, obviously by my status as ME at the Stater, I had already established myself in both newspaper and magazine student media, so I was poised to go either way, both with the intent of doing online in the long run).

I pitched the idea of riding around with the ice cream man for my final story. It was an idea stolen from one of the stories we read where the reporter rode for a day with a dog catcher. I also liked the idea of being able to do all — or almost all — of the reporting in one sitting.

It was both one of the most fun and miserable stories I’ve ever done. Fun because the woman was hilarious and you really do hear and see a lot of cute things from the window of the ice cream truck. But miserable because the truck didn’t have air conditioning, and I hadn’t thought to wear light clothes or put on sun block — my legs and arms were sunburnt on half of my body after baking for 12 hours(!) in 97 degree sun. Oh, and then there was the prolonging of the 12 hour day by the truck breaking down half an hour away from the company base. It was, eh hem, an interesting day.

I met the owner and he put me on a truck with the woman with whom I had struck up a conversation outside.

It was the first of many contradictions that I experienced that day. This was an ice cream woman. That followed with many more: before doing this she had managed an adult bookstore, she swore like a sailor (though not around the kids), and she profiled the neighborhoods in the opposite way you would think: lower- to middle-class were better. As she drove through the neighborhoods, she went on about her theory (the upperclass kids were playing video games, their parents were too cheap that’s how they got so much money, etc. and the poorer areas where she did her best business, the parents could spend a dollar and totally make their kids day.) I was able to see this play out as we drove through much more affluent areas and sold not a single popsicle, and then as we drove through “the projects,” she had lines halfway down the road.

When I got home and sat down to write, I was confused. Do I write about the feel-good stuff, the cute kids counting their pennies and stopping at Wal-Mart to buy sugar free popsicles for the nursing home she visited because many of the adults were diabetic yet her boss couldn’t sell enough sugar-free items to stock them? Or, do I write about the more real-life stuff, the empty yards and sidewalks in the affluent areas, the kids who wanted the ninja turtle but could only afford a freeze pop, the other driver invading her “turf” and cutting into her business, the annoying song that must have played 1,000 times, the lack of air conditioning, the truck breaking down, the excessive use of “damn” and the like?

I struggled with that, and then called Mitch the next day to ask for his advice. I had decided to go with the warts and all version, even though it wasn’t what I set out to report or to write. But I wasn’t sure how to treat it when fully half my best quotes included an expletive. He helped me work it out so it wasn’t offensive and it wasn’t sugar coated. It was what it was true to her character and my day in the life of this ice cream truck driver.

Sadly, as it was written for class and it wasn’t of immediate appeal to the Stater audience, it never ran, and I have long since lost the copy I had of it. But it is still one of my favorite stories. I know Mitch really liked it, too, because the last time I saw him at a function last fall, he mentioned it as he introduced me to his boss and he has told me he uses it as an example in his classes.

Something tells me this story wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable if I’d gone with the cliche, ideal of the ice cream man.