Month: August 2014

I’ll make a man out of you: Website launch, SJE, first production night

photo (2)This week has marked several milestones in the history of The Hullabaloo. We’ve launched our new and improved website as a digital first media company, completed our 9th annual Summer Journalism Experience and survived our first weekly production night.

The website came with one large obstacle, which is that when we launched it on Thursday it was visible to everyone except anyone on Tulane’s campus. As you can probably imagine, this realization nearly drove me over a hill. I spoke with our Town News project manager and one of the most helpful networking engineers you could come across at Tulane University. Supposedly, the issue stemmed from problems with server communication. Either way, the connection glitched throughout production night and into the next day’s afternoon before it consistently showed up on our computers in Tulane’s student center. The glitches took away the initial elation at the “launch date,” but it did not take away the relief I finally felt when the connection finally went through for good. 

The staff appeared unaffected by this delay, though, even though they could not see the live product of their efforts (thank goodness for the preview button). They took to the website much more quickly than I could ever imagine! By the end of the evening all editing was happening on the back end of the website as people acclimated to the new system. Our arts and entertainment editor integrated Spotify playlists into music articles. Our editors began putting in pull quotes, and we uploaded three separate videos. 

Minor setbacks we had to work through included that everyone’s usernames, which we set up during staff training, were that not all the accounts had all the access they needed, which I was able to come around and fix. We also learned that to use the undo option we had to use the keyboard shortcut. We have to copy and paste quotation marks that aren’t “up-and-down,” we had to put initials on the end of the headlines to mark who had edited what, and we decided to have the layout editors pull articles from the front end of the website to ensure that they used the final version (published). Publishing the article online before it is printed was a new concept for the newsroom, as well. To upload the videos, we created a YouTube channel, so we could imbed videos that were too large of a file to directly upload onto the website. 

We use a BLOX system with Town News, and there were several instances in which the wrong content was feeding into a certain block, which I had to fix multiple times throughout production night. I had the resources to figure that out, however, so it was an easy fix. During production night, we had three board members, the chief layout editor, the multimedia director and me, who knew the basics of BLOX and were able to make rounds to help.

There were little to no complaints about the new website during production night (I can’t remember any complaints at all at the moment). Instead, they had tons of questions about how they could do this and that. Those questions were very encouraging, and I knew off the bat that The Hullabaloo elected the exact staff it needed to make this transition to the digital age. They had the enthusiasm and curiosity to integrate the website into their routine from the start. I’d heard plenty of stories about how 

Spearheading the website, however, has been particularly stressful because I’ve been filling two positions, the EIC and the webmaster. Even more, the project manager for our website did not want to communicate with anyone but me since I was the one working with her all through the summer. This put time constraints on me that I feel could be avoided in other newsrooms.

In addition, by creating three more copy editing positions in the spring to speed up the editing process and because our layout team has two unfilled position, the staff is working overtime to make sure the print job gets done. A print production night that should be ending around 1 a.m. stretched to 5 a.m. on our first night because we edited both online and print articles to jumpstart the website launch, and the chief layout editor was forced to layout almost three sections on her own with help from the visual director. This stress on the team should be relieved after our general interest meeting, which usually attracts around 60 or 70 interested students, and after elections to fill these open positions in a week or so.

Several of the Summer Journalism Experience participants seem to enjoy The Hullabaloo, and we are hoping that a few of them will apply to fill these positions. I am hopeful that, that will be the case.

New Post-ers to Come…

With the new year beginning, the office is filling up with the excellent editors and board members we hired in the spring. We’ll be in full force taking on our content and digital obstacles with each new issue per week. As a result, we will probably run into problems in each section of the newspaper, problems that will be solved with the help of Managing Board often cases. Given that anticipation, to make sure this blog records all of the ups and downs of a newsroom going digital, Managing Board will be posting articles semi-often whenever obstacles worth noting come about. These members include the personnel director, managing editor, business manager, visual director and me, as well as the multimedia director on occasion. We’ll make a habit of signing our position and name (if we’re comfortable with that) at the bottom. Look forward to all the posts!

Dani/EIC

Summer Journalism Experience and Staff Training: Digitized

photo (1)As part of educating the entire staff on digital journalism, we started integrating digital education as part of our incoming freshmen program. During this week, incoming students move in early and help the Board put together the first issue of the Fall, and we teach them the fundamentals of journalism. The difference is that digitization has become a fundamental of journalism.

Given that fact, we’ve altered our curriculum to include tutorials on how to directly upload articles to the back end of our new website, shoot a man-on-the-street video and edit it using the iMovie smartphone application and use social media as a live reporting tool during conferences/tours/SJE sessions (using #SJE2014). We are taking them on a tour of a local broadcasting station, as well. All of these activities are an attempt to expose them to all types of journalism avenues and hopefully expand how they think about spreading news. To accompany these new platforms, we’ve covered how the law covers digital media with the Board during staff training and SJE.

Because we do not have a large budget to put toward digitization (and we recently bought Mac desktops), we decided to put our money toward one expensive purchase. We voted between a TV, which could be used to educate the staff on layout and a number of other parts of the newspaper, and a GoPro. The GoPro won. With a new football stadium opening in a few weeks, it should be an excellent way to showcase a new aspect of student life.

While the staff and I are still raking through BLOX tutorials, I’m confident that we will be able to upload our articles to create a basic front page of content on the website. Eventually, with persistence (and my encouragement), we should have a steady handle on the website, and we will be able to pass that knowledge on without watching hours of BLOX videos. I’m still concerned about that challenge, but I’ll keep you posted…