Adjusting to our new digital purpose: improving copy editing, making more multimedia

Four issues into our second semester as a digital first media company, we’ve identified a few obstacles to raising our standard of content. I haven’t been surprised to see new challenges emerge given the drastic changes The Hullabaloo has undergone in the last six months, and thankfully, I find them to be more easily fixed than others.

The first is training associates and staff reporters to edit using AP style, enough to prepare them to take an editor position when the time comes. When we edited on paper, associates’ jobs largely consisted of entering in corrections that their editors made. That process slowed down production significantly, but one byproduct was more-or-less educating associates on basic AP style and content-based edits. Without this process, it appears that a stronger relationship between the copy editing staff and the section editors/associates needs to exist. I was lucky, and take for granted, that I began as a copy editor and therefore have worked closely with AP style.

There are multiple ways to go about this problem, including training sessions, bringing associates in to copy edit alongside copy editors during print production nights, inserting them into the editing process by creating an additional round of edits, etc. All of these possibilities have their pros and cons. Identifying this problem, and brainstorming, is the first step toward figuring it out, though.

The second is a lack in photography in the field, which stems from the difficulty in prompting reporters to take extra steps in adding multimedia to their stories. There is only so much that one photo editor can do to cover all the stories The Hullabaloo produces given its newly consistent flow of online content. Mobilizing the masses, per say, is much easier said than done. Training reporters to feel comfortable taking and uploading photos, videoing snippets and live-tweeting events is time-consuming and relies heavily on repetition. This routine has not been established.

While sections editors have begun to embrace using the (mostly) website, twitter and in some cases iPhone shots in the absence of professional cameras, this drive to add multimedia needs to increase. I believe a degree of this technology has become second nature for many on staff, and it is time for them to push further. As they move forward, however, we need to pass down our knowledge of digital journalism, not only concerning written content but also multimedia.

Education, especially lasting education, in my opinion, is the biggest challenge that college newspapers face. Theoretically, a fourth of the staff graduates every year. Professional newsrooms (not to say that our University paper is not professional) can build up that knowledge over decades, but often in our case, seniors graduate and leave with knowledge that has yet to be shared. Multimedia presents a particularly difficult obstacle, as well. We can write manuals and guides for content and AP style because it evolves relatively slowly, but the same cannot be said for the digital part of digital journalism.

Informal, hands-on training, I would argue, is the way to go. The Hullabaloo has only one adviser, who splits her time between us and a large chunk of other clubs on campus. We’ve got to just jump into the ring and, starting with even one other reporter, pull the whole newsroom in with us. We can figure it out as we go — that’s what every good journalist is doing.


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.

Introducing research notes

I’ve just now added three new pages to this blog to document the ongoing textual research for this Hullabaloo transition. I will continue to add notes to these pages as my research continues, but they will be the basis for critical decisions in the upcoming staff restructure and policy creation. They should also serve as a quick understanding of The Hullabaloo’s upcoming challenges/opportunities in a short-hand, easily accessible form.

The Drawing Board


The Hullabaloo‘s journey toward a digital first newsroom has started like many great visions before, at the drawing board. Thanks to Ryan Frank, present adviser of the Daily Emerald, the student newspaper of the University of Oregon, Eugene., our staff has taken its first steps toward becoming a digital media company.

By April 30, the future plan for The Hullabaloo should be completed, including a full written report and a guideline for the upcoming transition. While The Hullabaloo’s plans will not directly emulate the transformation called the Revolution the Daily Emerald underwent, it has given The Hullabaloo a starting point.