Friday, August 25, 2006

News Breaks at

How's that for a headline? Does it get you to read this blog posting? That was a question the leaders of the BEST convention session I've attended so far would want me to ask.

Charlie Meyerson and Danielle Gordon, senior producers for spent more than an hour helping me and eight of my colleagues think about AUDIENCE when writing for the web.

"It may be the end of Journalism That Takes Itself So Seriously That It Doesn't Bother To Figure Out How To Get People Interested In The First Place, " Meyerson said.

The session entitled, "Mindreading your audience," was a mix of tips from web producers and insights on how a website for one of the nation's major newspapers operates.

Traveling to the famous Tribune Tower was an experience in and of itself. I spent 10 minutes marveling at the quotes about journalism from the likes of Medill, Patrick Henry and McCormick that appear on the inside of the skyscraper.

But, once we went downstairs below the lobby to what once were the two levels for the presses of The Chicago Tribune, the action got even more interesting.

While Meyerson was talking about headline writing techniques for the Web and how to use web metrics to identify directions for online reporting, he and Gordon received an alert about a breaking story.

It wasn't a major story, but clearly the big story of the day for Chicago-- the closing of a famous department store on Chicago's State Street.

Gordon acknowledged that another news organization's website, a TV site in fact, had beat the Tribune to the punch in getting the story online for readers.

An hour later as the session begin to wind down, we saw how quickly the staff was able to get a photo of the story and a local story (not just A.P. wire copy) posted for readers along with a web poll.

It's that kind of reaction time that many of us who've worked in web journalism would like to see our sites have.

From a teaching standpoint, the talk about what to do when ordering stories on the Web's main page, how to develop relationships between online staff and print newsroom and most important skills for someone getting into web journalism are what made this off-site session invaluable.

I can't wait to do a more thorough recap of this later.


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