Switching Web Providers: It wasn’t just ‘Technical Difficulties’

When we undertook this challenge to push The Hullabaloo into the digital present, I never doubted obstacles would arise, no one did. Even so, I didn’t foresee how soon we would run into our first, and I certainly didn’t know it would cut at the heart of our operation. Our web provider College Publisher severely altered our online platform without properly notifying us or working with us to adapt the operation to our needs.

In frank terms, they locked us out of our website for multiple days directly before we published our summer issue and did not respond to numerous calls, emails and messages. They changed both the front and back end of our website in such a way that it will no longer support the online digital process we’ve made plans to implement, hence The Hullabaloo has been experiencing “technical difficulties” on the website.

This isolated incident reflects the customer service they’ve shown in the last year—I’m sure many of you still do not have your full archive of stories on the website even now.

After much discussion with Tel, my advisor, with Ryan Frank, our digital consultant, and our multimedia director, I’ve decided to move us back to Town News, our previous web provider. We initially moved away from Town News to College Publisher because our newsroom did not use close to 10 percent of its capabilities, and it was not profitable to continue paying Town News’ hefty bill each month.

Our focus has shifted, however, and Town News is the leading web provider for college media. I am confident that this decision will serve The Hullabaloo’s best interest in both the short and long term.

What does that mean for The Hullabaloo? Here’s what it means: Given the short time span we have to build a website from scratch, the multimedia director and I will be working closely with a Town News project manager to ensure that the new website is ready by the time staff training and the Summer Journalism Experience come around.

This move also means the website will not look the same as it did this year. We will build a basic template that can be shifted in a number of ways during the school year—the design decisions made now will not stifle your ability to make design changes to the website down the road.

Training-wise, I will be learning the new CMS system Town News uses, known as BLOX CMS, and by the time staff training comes around, we will have the resources to teach you all how to use the new website. While there will be a learning curve, College Publisher used a form of CMS, too, so those of you who learned how to upload articles have a basic understanding of how it will look even though the system is not the same. For those of you who have not used the website, don’t worry. That is one purpose of staff training!

While we make this transition, the website we have now will remain up until we launch the new one. During that time, we will publish articles to the old website. I need you to tell me, however, whenever you publish something online. That way we can keep track of stories and make sure they are all transferred over. We should be able to have the archives back online, up and running on our new website, but I will keep you posted on that note.

For those of you who don’t know, Tel and I and a couple of others put together this year’s website from scratch last summer (which received recognition at the College Media convention in just a short time with our design/multimedia savvies). This isn’t our first time, so I don’t want you to be concerned. And I’m going to make sure this doesn’t become a tradition. With widespread training on how to use the Town News website, this decision will be a profitable and sustainable move for The Hullabaloo.

I appreciate all of your patience, as several of you have contacted me about the website. Normally, I would end this post by telling you not to hesitate to contact me with any questions, but instead I’ll tell you to hold your questions about the website until I return. I also apologize if I delay to respond to any other inquiries. Beyond building the website, we are working to put together the Summer Journalism Experience, and I am soaking up as much knowledge and as many techniques as I can at my D.C. internship to bring back to our newsroom. Once I return, I will exuberantly answer any and every question that might pop into your head.

I want y’all to know I am extremely excited about all the possibilities that this new online platform will present, and I can’t wait to see how maximizing on Town News’ digital tools will increase The Hullabaloo’s potential. We’ve got this, y’all.

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What won’t fall between the cracks: The summer edition

 

While The Hullabaloo has put a new staff structure in place, one hurdle we have encountered is putting together the summer issue. To put out this issue, the staff has to work virtually, as people are spread out across the U.S. (and sometimes further) during the summer. To produce this print issue, despite divying up section editors as print vs. online, we’ve joined everyone to help produce the summer edition.

Both print and online editors worked together to put a priority list of stories up and shell out assignments to reporters. In addition, both section editors (except in the case of the views editor, who works alone) are contributing pieces to this summer print issue.

The summer issue is a challenge every year, and this year in particular. For one, I was in New Orleans last year to help with the issue hands-on and speak with my advisor. And for two, this issue is the first of the new staff’s. Before, we hired staff three issues before the end of the year — that way they could get acclimated to their position with guidance from the previous editor. The decision to elect staff at a later date came with several discussions between my advisor and me about the lack of training that new staff members had whenever they began their job in the fall, which resulted in several serious incidents because the staff is comparatively younger.

This new issue, so, is the first issue they handle. While they have no experience, the team has more time to put together the issue, and the issue is shorter than most of the editions we published this year. I am hoping that this experience will bring editors together but at the same time not overwhelm them before staff training in the fall.

Either way, this issue is another challenge that came with switching the staff structure around because it does not neatly fall into routines we hope to instill when classes begin. The summer edition will come out on June 9, though, and then the training coordinator, recruitment coordinator, and personnel director and I can begin planning staff training and the Summer Journalism Experience, our week-long freshman orientation program for those interested in working on The Hullabaloo.

Positions unfilled

I apologize for the delay in recording an update following elections until now, but being a student got in the way. One of the challenges I knew we would encounter as a first-year media company was filling the positions created in the new hierarchy. The following are positions we were unable to fill during spring elections:

  • Video Producer
  • Webmaster
  • 2 Copy Editors
  • 2 Layout Editors

The key positions I was worried would not be filled included the recruitment coordinator and the training coordinator, two positions key to fulfilling a strong foundation for incoming reporters at The Hullabaloo.

We will have another set of elections in the fall after our general interest meeting a week or so into fall classes. I am content with where we stand as of now, and I’m extremely excited about the team that we did elect.

We will have a young staff for the second year in the row, but their willingness and even eagerness to embrace the digital age is a hopeful sign for The Hullabaloo. For now, we need to tackle the summer issue, and I’ll be posting research on training for the fall.

Managing Board applications released

The following is the email I sent out to staff announcing that the Managing Board position application (and contracts) had been posted. Given that the Board contracts are not prepared yet, this election process is a bit trickier than it normally would be. Tonight my production manager relayed several question from prospective layout editors, and I am quickly realizing that evenly disseminating information throughout staff is one of the most challenging obstacles I am facing.
Hi staff,
 
I am grateful to have been selected as the editor-in-chief for The Hullabaloo’s 2014-15 run, and I am excited to start the process of elections! Managing Board applications have been released and can be found at www.tulanehullabaloo.com under “Apply.” These positions include:
 
Visual Director
Managing Editor
Personnel Director
Business Manager
 
If you would like to apply for one of these positions, please fill out the Managing Board application with the position(s) you are interested in, read and sign the corresponding contract that outlines all specific responsibilities, and email them to hull@tulane.edu by 12 p.m. Saturday. You are welcome to apply for more than one Managing Board position. If you do not receive that position, you will also be able to apply for a/multiple Board position(s). 
 
The Board application, with corresponding contracts that outline the specific duties of each position, will be released by next week and will be due 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 23. You are welcome, and encouraged in many cases, to apply for multiple Board positions. Simply fill out the application with each position sought in mind.
 
Board positions include:
(find basic position descriptions here: https://hullsite.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/hull-staff-structure-2014-15/)
 
Marketing Manager
Advertising Manager
Advertising Layout Editor
Recruitment Coordinator
Training Coordinator
Chief Layout Editor
Layout Editor (3)
Photo Editor
Multimedia Director
Video Producer
Webmaster
Chief Copy Editor
Copy Editor (3)
Views Editor
News Editor (2)
Sports Editor (2)
Arcade Editor (2)
 
NOTE: Applicants interested in becoming CONTENT EDITORS in a section that is split into print and online (News Editors, Sports Editors, Arcade Editors) will just apply for Editor in that section, noting preference for online or print, and Managing Board will assign the applicant online or print editor depending on the best fit.
 
NOTE: Applicants interested in becoming LAYOUT EDITORS will apply for the layout editor position, noting preference for Arcade/Sports/Views in order (Chief Layout Editor lays out News), and Managing Board will assign the applicant a section depending on the best fit.
 
NOTE: Applicants interested in becoming COPY EDITORS will apply for the copy editor position, noting preference for Arcade/Sports/Views in order (Chief Copy Editor edits News), and Managing Board will assign the applicant a section depending on the best fit.
I will respond with a confirmation email when I receive your application. I look forward to seeing the new team come together!
Thank you,
Dani

Transition casualties

Traditionally, The Hullabaloo staff has transition three issues before the end of the academic year, so the new staff can dive into their new positions before the year ends. It gives the new staff the opportunity to ask the old staff for questions, tips and guidance as they embark on their first few issues. This year, this transition was particularly rough for The Hullabaloo because a young staff came up, and many seniors who made up the previous staff did not give as much guidance as was necessary to make the transition something near smooth.

Given the substantial digital-first, organizational changes that will take effect for the new staff this year, that transition was not plausible.

  1. The new staff would not be performing the same particular tasks as the previous staff. This hands-on guidance by the previous staff to the new staff is mostly useful for the particulars involved in someone’s duties, and these would not match up given the restructuring of jurisdiction and responsibilities behind 75 percent of the positions.
  2. The new staff would have to learn the old way using positions that don’t match the old process and then learn the new way directly after that.
  3. Practically speaking, the plans, policies and overall paperwork would not be completed for the last three issues. Time-wise, producing detailed job descriptions by elections is presenting a large obstacle for me at this point given the size of the Board.

As a result, this year’s staff is making its first major contribution to The Hullabaloo‘s digital transformation by taking on the last three issues of the year in addition to its traditional 24 issues. This extra responsibility has weighed on the staff, however, and so The Hullabaloo is producing a shortened version of its original newspaper, with no attached requirements for online articles for the remainder of the year: a content casualty. I am not particularly thrilled by this decision, but I understand the importance of The Hullabaloo staff’s sanity, and in the end temporary sacrifices will have to be made in order to take big steps in the right direction.

 

End of year to-do list

As the end of the academic year comes into sight, in addition to weekly duties these are the overarching tasks surrounding the digitalization of The Hullabaloo that I personally need to complete before May 9 when I leave for a three-month journalism internship with the National Journalism Center:

  • Write up 18 individualized contracts for Board positions, edit and post Board application
  • Organize Managing Board elections, elect Managing Board members
  • Organize Board elections, elect Board members
  • Write up flow chart of 2014-15 weekly and monthly routine newspaper schedule
  • Research and submit request for basic digital media equipment
  • Complete transfer of missing online archives from previous web provider
  • Finalize payment rates for business department positions, re-submit/submit corresponding paperwork
  • Write up and send out guide for summer issue
  • Plan and hold first Board meeting
  • Meet with advisor to edit and virtually distribute Summer Journalism Experience brochure and application
  • Conduct Skype session with Ryan Frank
  • Compile digitalization report and contact Steve Buttry for feedback
  • Submit Hullabaloo work for College Media awards
  • Determine 2014-15 production schedule

Most likely I’ve forgotten something, but this list should keep me grounded for the next few weeks as we reach closer to the April 30 deadline when we will produce a digital-first report to work from during the summer and fall.

Importance of contracts

To increase clarity or responsibilities, which is one major concern staff members had going into this transition, I’ve decided to introduce detailed contracts for each position. These are contracts are to be signed and turned in with applications. The idea is that these contracts will help make prospective Board members aware of the particular responsibilities that correspond with their job title and eliminate discrepencies that often occur when expectations are blurry. However, I anticipate discrepencies even with these contracts, given the uncharted territory for The Hullabaloo. The following is one example of a Managing Board contract – specifically the Managing Editor’s.

 

The Tulane Hullabaloo seeks to inform and engage its readers through honest and relevant reporting and to facilitate interaction within the Tulane community and beyond. By becoming an elected member of the Tulane Hullabaloo Board, you are agreeing to act ethically and responsibly and to consider the well-being of the paper and its staff in your actions.

I agree to perform the following weekly tasks if elected 2014-15 Managing Editor for The Hullabaloo:

  • Attend Managing Board meeting and content meeting
  • Approve print priority list for each section editor before stories are assigned to reporters
  • Approve rolling story ideas for online, excluding breaking stories when unable
  • Edit all content last for print production on production night
  • Assist section editors during content emergencies
  • Supervise day-to-day content production, online and in print

In addition to the above weekly tasks, I agree to perform the following duties:

  • Attend staff training and Summer Journalism Experience
  • Attend monthly Board meetings
  • Monitor online/social media content activity
  • Address overall/section content issues when necessary
  • Address communication issues between section editors
  • Attend copy editing meeting monthly
  • Attend sections’ reporters’ meeting monthly
  • Meet with Training Coordinator monthly

I understand that I am first and foremost in charge of and responsible for all written content produced by The Hullabaloo. I commit myself to maintain The Hullabaloo’s standard of content, and more, I intend to improve its quality of content.

 

Print Name: ________________________________________________________ Date: _____________

Signature: __________________________________________________________ Date: _____________

Editor-in-chief digital platform

The following is the platform I present to the Staff Editorial Board for the elections process.

 

The Hullabaloo: Digital First Media Company

Perhaps the single most important adaptive trait is to recognize that we are in a revolution, in its sense of a change so large that the existing structure of society can’t contain it without being altered by it … There is no solution to the present crisis. One corollary is there is no stable state coming to the practice of news any time soon. We are not living through a transition from A to B but a transition from one to many … Individual journalists in whatever area of expertise need to think of experimentation with the aim of innovation as something they practice rather than endure.

C.W. Anderson, Emily Bell, Clay Shirky

 

The Hullabaloo must embrace new technology to remain an effective news source to the Tulane community, but with this transition comes a need for widespread trust between staff members, from the Managing Board to the first-time contributor. I propose an intense focus on front-end education. Basic training, in technology and content, will give reporters the tools they need to submit better quality work and thereby, eliminate excess stages of editing.

To foster this education process and streamline the online vs. print production process I propose an extensive, yet vital, change in staff structure. While none of these recommendations can guarantee an obstacle-free leap into the digital age, I am confident these changes will move The Hullabaloo into present-day journalism.

Digitalization   –   Efficiency   –   Education

Education

  • I recommend that before school begins The Hullabaloo holds individual-focused training for the Board that will develop skills each staff member will need for his/her position, as well as fill in gaps in basic knowledge of The Hullabaloo, as opposed to general education.
  • I recommend two reporter training sessions per month, run by the Training Coordinator with the assistance of the Recruitment Coordinator, the Personnel Director and each section associate. During these sessions, reporters would learn how to post articles to the website, how to use social media as a journalism tool and how to write a basic news, feature and opinion piece. Reporters would be required to attend one session before their first article.

Structure

  • The print team would operate much like the newsroom does now, with one production night per week. Each article would go through approximately four edits. The newspaper will be a shorter version of what The Hullabaloo puts out now. One senior reporter would be in charge of an in-depth feature every two weeks in addition to his/her regular weekly assignment.
  • The online team would produce content daily, at least one article per day, using staggering deadlines throughout the week and holding one weekly reporters meeting. However, only the online section editor and one copy editor would edit these articles before they were published online. One senior reporter would be in charge of directly assisting the section editor in breaking stories, and an associate would be in charge of educating/guiding reporters.
  • Copy editors would be assigned to one particular section, develop a close relationship with the corresponding section editor and be responsible for fact-checking/editing the section’s print and online content. Copy editor associates would fact-check/edit smaller sections of print.
  • I recommend a more intense focus on recruitment using the Recruitment Coordinator. This position would be solely concentrated on finding future Hullabaloo staff: going to organizations to speak, putting up flyers, reaching out with social media, etc. He/she would work closely with the Training Coordinator. In addition, the Personnel Director would hold more social events for all Hullabaloo staff to integrate newcomers.
  • I recommend that The Hullabaloo’s business department separates completely from content and uses revenue strategies outside of advertising, such as renting out services like layout design and event photography.

Hull Staff Structure 2014-15

Hull Organization

 

Everyone on Board must have a basic understanding of how to use AP Style, write a straightforward news article, post an article/photo/video to the website. Managing Board meetings and content meetings take place weekly. Board meetings take place monthly.

 

EIC

  • Supervise business, personnel, visual, and content departments
  • Gives post-published feedback on content
  • Holds Board meetings, Managing Board meetings, News Budgeting meetings
  • Copied on all emails sent by Managing Board members
  • Meets with advisor at least once a week
  • Plan/attend SJE and staff training

Managing Editor

  • Supervise day-to-day content production, print and online
  • Sign off on priority lists and rolling story ideas, copied on emails sent out by every editor (not including associates)
  • Last to edit print stories on production night
  • Manages content emergencies
  • Monitors sections’ online/social media production
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training

Print Editors

  • Produce sections during Wednesday night’s production for Thursday, including editing each article
  • Retain/oversee/guide print reporters (may overlap with online)
  • Lead weekly reporter meeting
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training

Senior Print Reporters

  • Write and research long form feature every two weeks
  • Write regular article every week

Online Editors

  • Supervise daily content production, at least one story a day
  • Retain/oversee/guide online reporters (may overlap with print)
  • Edit each article
  • Monitor section’s social media, including section Twitter account
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training
  • Lead weekly reporter meeting

Senior Online Reporters

  • Assist editor with social media/Twitter accounts
  • Work w/ editor on breaking stories
  • Write regular article per week

Associate Online Editors

  • Educate/guide reporters
  • Compile stock information (interviewee contacts, department contacts, etc.)
  • Assist editor with social media/Twitter accounts
  • Write regular article per week
  • Attend all reporter training sessions

Chief Copy Editor

  • Copy edits/Fact-checks News section
  • Holds weekly quizzes/feedback meetings with copy editors, including associates
  • Educates copy editors, addresses recurring errors

Section Copy Editors

  • Copy edit/Fact-check appropriate section
  • Attend weekly feedback meetings

Associate Copy Editors

  • Copy edit/Fact-check recurring items (blurbs, lagniappe, playlist, etc.) in appropriate section
  • Attend weekly feedback meetings

Visual Director

  • Educates department on new layout, photography, multimedia techniques
  • Designs Hullabaloo identity
  • Supervises and monitors photography, multimedia, website, layout throughout week
  • Works w/ Webmaster on front page of website
  • Attends meetings of supervised departments at least once a month
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training
  • Checks in on layout/photos during production night

Multimedia Director

  • Develops/updates App
  • Develops special interactive options on website (poll, crime map, menus, etc.)
  • Oversees social media usage outside posting articles (Marketing, Personnel, Photo, etc.)
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training
  • Tracks/reports social media statistics

Photo Editor

  • Posts galleries
  • Retains/manages photographers
  • Compiles/organize file photos
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training

Webmaster

  • Responsible for technical upkeep of website
  • Assists layout editors in designing webpages
  • Communicates with website provider
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training
  • Tracks/reports web analytics

Chief Layout Editor

  • Paginates News section
  • Approves design of others sections
  • Holds weekly feedback meetings, including associates
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training

Section Layout Editors

  • Paginate section in print and online
  • Attend weekly feedback meetings
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training

Associate Layout Editors

  • Design infographics
  • Paginate internal pages
  • Attend weekly feedback meetings

Video Producer

  • Works with feature writers to make video projects
  • Produce one video per month
  • Eventually, manages/trains other videographers
  • Video campus question

Personnel Director

  • Supervises recruiting and training of new Hullabaloo members
  • Attends all training sessions
  • Distributes Hull Love
  • Plans social events
  • Oversees general well-being of staff
  • Assists in planning SJE activities
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training

Recruiting Coordinator

  • Assists in planning SJE
  • Publicizes continuous recruiting for The Hullabaloo
  • Attends classes/club meetings
  • Sends out emails/puts up flyers/utilizes social media
  • Attends all reporter training sessions
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training

Training Coordinator

  • Assists in planning SJE
  • Holds two reporter training sessions per month
  • Attend SJE/fall staff training

Business Manager

  • Supervises marketing, distribution, advertising
  • Completes regular billing procedures, including recording/organizing appropriate information for files
  • Proposes annual budget to Managing Board
  • Updates advertising pamphlet
  • Orders office supplies
  • Attends SJE/fall staff training
  • Manages photography rentals

Advertising Manager

  • Coordinates payment of advertising staff
  • Develops associate training process
  • Manages advertising associates
  • Maintains client relationships
  • Holds weekly associate meetings
  • Meets with clients alongside Advertising Layout Editor

Advertising Associates

  • Create contacts in campus and community
  • Sell online and print ads
  • Market/sell other advertising opportunities as needed
  • Attend weekly associate meetings

Advertising Layout Editor

  • Meet with clients to assess needs
  • Design/submit ads, make necessary edits

Distribution Manager

  • Distributes newspaper on campus Thursday
  • Mails print newspaper on Friday
  • Notifies Business Manager/EIC when papers arrive
  • Tracks number of paper left at rack each week

Marketing Manager

  • Publicizes The Hullabaloo to community
  • Attends FAQs
  • Oversees marketing endeavors
  • Sponsoring events
  • Merchandising
  • Public Awareness events (coffee and donuts)
  • Acquires business statistics for clients

Online Policy Research

The following is information gathered by our online editor on website policies.

The Daily Emerald

Comments:

The opinions expressed in the comments section are the thoughts of their authors, not of the Emerald or its reporters.

In order to make the community comments at DailyEmerald.com a friendly and safe place for readers to join the conversation, Emerald editors will monitor comments and remove any comment in violation of the following:

  • No insults based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities or appearance.
  • No attacks on specifically named individuals.
  • No sexually explicit, threatening or violent language.
  • No comments that are clearly off topic, self promotional or spamming.
  • No clear lies about a person, group or event.
  • No personal attacks or harassment toward specific members of the Emerald staff.

The Emerald encourages conversations and invites anyone with more to say to send a letter to the editor via email to sstites@dailyemerald.com. We also encourage commenters to flag comments they believe are inappropriate for review by our editors.

The Daily Reveille

Hopefully I can help you out. As far as policies, we don’t allow our writers to comment on articles, comments on our website must be approved by an administrator with no profanity allowed, we try and encourage our writers to tweet out/facebook their stories. Overall, I think we just emphasize keeping it professional. Instagram is sort of new for us, so we don’t really have any guidelines yet, we’re still trying to figure out what’s best.

For the most part, it works out pretty well. I think our sports writers are really the only ones who have any sort of following on Twitter, which isn’t that much. We’ve had problems in the past and talked to them about it, but nothing too major. 

The Ithacan

I’m happy to talk more about how we do online and social media at The Ithacan. We don’t really have “policies,” per se. But we have a social media manager who coordinates all our accounts, and we have an online news editor who handles breaking news and daily stories. We also have a Web Master who maintains and monitors website traffic and internal posting of stories by all the editors. By dedicating a person to each job, there is less room for error in terms of ethical approaches. If there are every any questions, everyone reports to me.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more specific questions I can answer.

InsideVandy

Most if our policies are fluid from year to year so that we can stay up to date on the latest trends and adjust things to meet the personalities of our staff members and leaders.

Generally, for our web content, the stories will be turned into a section editor, who will edit it and then post it. We have a copy editor on duty for each day who keeps an eye on the site and reads through content to make sure everything looks right.

For comments, the system we use (BLOX CMS) flags any egregious/profane words and notifies us (staff leadership) so that we can review the comment before it goes live on the site. Otherwise we try to let users be free to comment whatever they please.

For social media, all of our stories are automatically pushed to our Twitter feed, and we have a social media director who oversees all other uses of social media. We try to increase site traffic by featuring our stories on all of our platforms multiple times. We also have approved reporters live tweet from various events and sports games from their personal cell phones. Our photo editor actually runs our Instagram account, and will post feature photos, even as he takes them sometimes.

Generally, like I said, what has worked best has been making adjustments and changes as a new idea or tool comes up. Being flexible and open has allowed us to use the differing preferences of our staff leaders to our advantage. Obviously we still have a lot of the same struggles as any other organization, but hopefully this helps a little bit.