So, I bought a newspaper

I’m excited to share the news that I’m diving fully into the world of community newspaper publishing. As of October 1, I’m the owner and publisher of the Western Wayne News here in Wayne County, Indiana.

If you’re not familiar with it, WWN is a weekly print newspaper that covers news, events, sports, government meetings, businesses, organizations and so much more from (despite its name) across the entire county. The paper was founded in 1991 and under the leadership of Janis and Ed Buhl and later Brenda and Jim McLane, has grown to reach thousands of people every week in print and online, powered by a wonderful team of reporters, designers and administrative staff. You can read more about the paper’s history and team.

My path from technology entrepreneur and software developer to print journalist and newspaper owner is nontraditional to be sure, but this is a thrilling opportunity to continue exploring my interest in the questions of where and how people get their information, and what informs the decisions they make about their lives, values and communities.

As I’ve talked and worked with the McLanes in recent years while also completing my Masters of Arts in Journalism, we found that we share so many ideas and hopes for what it means to provide quality news reporting to this area, and I’m honored that as they began to consider their business succession plans, together we found a path forward that will hopefully keep this essential community resource thriving and growing for many years to come. Now, I’m elated that I will be able to build on what the paper’s staff and supporters have done for Wayne County and its residents, while bringing my own ideas, skills and experience to bear as we inform, inspire and hopefully improve the communities we serve.

Continue reading "So, I bought a newspaper"

I finished my journalism degree

This month, July of 2022, I completed the master's degree in journalism program that I started in 2019 at Ball State University.

My diploma is not yet in hand but all course work is completed and all credit requirements are satisfied. I'm quite proud to be at this milestone, and I'm grateful for what I've learned and experienced along the way. Here are a few highlights and reflections:

The courses

My program focus was on "reporting and storytelling," which covered a range of topics and disciplines including reporting and storytelling itself, a lot of theory and analysis work, developing and practicing my academic research skills, learning data journalism tactics and tools, exploring past, present and future models of journalism, thinking about what voices and perspectives are missing or under-represented in local news, and more.

Here's a full list of the courses I took:

  • Studies in Journalism and Communication Theory
  • Social and Cross-Media Storytelling
  • Journalistic Judgments
  • Data Journalism
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Diversity & Media
  • Intro to Statistical Methods
  • Media Audiences and Content Strategy
  • Social Media Analytics and Engagement
  • Capstone Creative Project (2 semesters)
  • Evolution of Remote/Distributed Newsrooms

That list represents three years of study, hundreds of book and article chapters read, hundreds of pages written for various papers and assignments, hundreds of hours of lectures and presentations, various articles, podcasts, websites and videos completed, and a lot of time and energy.

Continue reading "I finished my journalism degree"

Multimedia journalism and the WordPress block editor

I recently finished a really interesting course in my graduate journalism studies program, focused on cross-platform, multimedia storytelling. It was fun in part because it wove together a lot creative disciplines I had already been experimenting with, including writing, photography, audio production, video production, interviewing people, and assembling the results of those efforts into a coherent, interesting final product that would engage the attention of readers and visitors. I got academic credit for doing things I love to do — nice!

It was also an experience that opened my eyes further to the power of the WordPress block editor for multi-media journalism and storytelling, and I want to share a bit more about that.

(If you're not already familiar with it, the WordPress block editor, also known as Gutenberg, is the updated content editing experience introduced into the WordPress publishing platform back in 2018. It transitions content authoring and editing in WordPress from a fairly linear "title plus paragraphs of text plus maybe some images" workflow into a much more flexible and powerful workflow that can include a wide variety of multi-media, interactive elements positioned throughout the body of a page or article. If you were talking to someone using a few tin cans and some string before, now you're enjoying the wonders of a smartphone.)

Like others I've had some skepticism in the past about the block editor and its place in the world of everyday WordPress users who may not want the additional power it offers. And at a personal level, old habits can die hard; I found myself writing this very post in the "classic" editor because it's how I've mostly always done things. So I haven't always been sure when and were I could definitively say to others that the block editor would be an essential part of their publishing toolkit.

Continue reading "Multimedia journalism and the WordPress block editor"

Helping out at the local newspaper

I'm excited to be able to say a bit more about one of the ways I've been spending time professionally in recent months. Since January, I've been consulting with the folks at Hometown Media Group, the parent company of two weekly newspapers here in Wayne County, Indiana, as their Digital Editor to help them update, streamline and manage their expanding digital offerings.

It's been a really fun and challenging application of my longtime interests in news media, technology, small business and community building. It's been rewarding to bring to bear my skills and experience previously helping national and global publishers, now for the benefit of reporters covering the place where I live. It's been a geeky delight to help them shore up their technical foundations with the tools and best practices that I've used, implemented or created elsewhere. And I love being a part of the strategy conversations around how and where people get their news in our region, and what kinds of improvements will serve readers and subscribers best.

All of this work is a part of answering that recurring question around what I can contribute to the field of journalism. I'm so glad for this experience along the way.

And although the ground-shaking that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic makes a lot of the future uncertain for newspapers (and everyone), it's also highlighted the essential nature of local news with high standards for factual reporting. We have some neat projects and updates in the works for the weeks and months ahead to honor that responsibility, so I'm looking forward to helping them out for as long as I can be useful.

At some point down the road I'll look at sharing more about some of the technical work I've done here that might benefit other newspapers working on improving their online publishing efforts.

If you're living in or connected to this part of Indiana, I hope you'll consider buying a subscription and supporting local journalism. Their prices are incredibly affordable, but more importantly the staff and ownership of Hometown Media Group are doing impressive work, especially these days when advertisers are especially cautious and the breaking news is truly nonstop. They care deeply about the community and the people they serve, and would appreciate your business if you're able.

What can I contribute to journalism?

What can I contribute to journalism?

It's a question I’ve been asking for years now.

My questioning has taken a variety of forms, including:

  • writing and editing for my high school and college newspapers,
  • hosting a weekly podcast with analysis of the local news,
  • blogging as a media critic,
  • serving on the local daily paper’s editorial board,
  • having letters to the editor accepted in local and national publications,
  • working professionally to advise and support some of the biggest news publishers on the web,
  • helping to organize a three-day national conference for publishers, and
  • researching business models for local journalism.

I’ve been rewarded and challenged in all of those things, and in most cases I’ve been told that I’ve made a positive difference. And yet...I feel more concerned than ever about the waning appreciation for journalism and pursuit of the truth in modern society. I also feel more drawn than ever to trying to do something (else) about it.

Continue reading "What can I contribute to journalism?"

WordCamp for Publishers Denver

I'm excited to be a part of the team that is organizing the first WordCamp for Publishers happening in Denver, Colorado this coming August 17th to 19th.

In my work on Automattic's VIP service offering I've been able to see some of the incredible things that journalists and publications of all types are doing with WordPress - really interesting stuff that pushes the software in new directions. So when I saw some of my colleagues discussing an event that would bring engineering, product and editorial teams together around all the things WordPress can do in the publishing world (for publications big and small), I wanted to be a part of making it happen.

We're looking for speakers and sponsors now. If you know someone who might want to be a part of this first-of-a-kind event, please point them in our direction. And if you're involved in publishing with WordPress at any scale, or just want to learn about how media organizations are using it to modernize their publishing  workflow, I hope you'll consider attending. Tickets ($40) will go on sale soon!

The Palladium-Item Paywall

At the beginning of September, the Palladium-Item newspaper in Richmond implemented what many other newspapers have in recent years, a "paywall" that requires users to have a paid subscription when viewing more than a certain number of articles per month on the paper's website.  The paper launched some new features with their digital subscription, including a tablet version and new mobile versions.

I think this approach is a great thing, and is probably something they should have done a long time ago.  Here's why.

Continue reading "The Palladium-Item Paywall"

Tales of two newspapers: NYT and P-I

Tales of my recent encounters with two newspapers of note, The New York Times and The Palladium-Item:

The New York Times

NYC: New York Times BuildingAccording to The New York Times website, home delivery of their Sunday edition is available where I live in Richmond, Indiana.  Earlier this year I tried to take them up on that, buying a subscription online and eagerly awaiting that first Sunday morning when I would get to indulge in a paper-reading experience long enough to get me through at least one cup of coffee.

But that first Sunday, the paper didn't show up.  "Oh, yeah, that's probably just some issue getting you in the circulation system," the phone rep said when I called.  "We'll get it to you next week."

Week two, no paper.  "Sorry about that, don't know what happened there.  Hold on while I call the distribution center."  They concluded it was just another circulation issue, and assured me it had been straightened out for sure this time.

Continue reading "Tales of two newspapers: NYT and P-I"

Why I'm canceling my print newspaper subscription

Damon on FireI believe the time has finally come to cancel my subscription to the local newspaper, The Palladium-Item.  It's a decision I've wrestled with even as I've supported and found excitement in the possibilities for renewal at the paper (and blogged about some of that thinking here, here, here, and here), and it's not something I'll do lightly.

I've gone from subscribing to the paper seven days a week, to just the Friday/Saturday/Sunday package, to just the Sunday edition.  Here's why I'm going to finally let go of receiving a print edition altogether:

Continue reading "Why I'm canceling my print newspaper subscription"