Friday, March 11, 2016

Let’s get Digital – Learnings from the PRSA Dallas Chapter’s March Luncheon featuring Mike Wilson, editor at The Dallas Morning News

You may have seen the recent Poynter article detailing The Dallas Morning News’ plans over the past year to bring relevant and impactful stories to readers in a more financial-savvy, digital format. For as long as I’ve been in the PR field (10 years this year!), there’s been a lot of chatter about what “going digital” means for PR pros, readers and journalists.

Our team had the chance to hear first-hand about the recent changes at The Dallas Morning News from editor, Mike Wilson at the PRSA Dallas Chapter’s March Luncheon. In a nutshell, The News will be operating as a website and not a traditional newspaper or as Mike puts it, “We’ll think of ourselves as a website that produces a great American newspaper.”

So, what’s changing?

Beats are out – Hubs and Obsessions are in
Reporters will no longer be defined by their prospective beats, but will report news based on more loosely outlined themes. For example, a reporter who may have been solely covering all things DISD, will now be in the education hub and will be tasked with regularly reporting on an obsession (like pre-K) for six months. At the end of the six-month period, the same reporter will switch to another obsession. Obsessions are not meant to be permanent like beats.

Content Generators are Not Tasked with Content Production
Reporters are no longer writing for tomorrow’s paper, but are drafting stories that can be published online quickly. As such, reporters will be working earlier hours to get stories online sooner. It will be the editor’s job to decide what goes in print and what stays online. Also, content generators are not only reporters, but a large roster of contributors offering expertise in a range of subjects from business analysis to '80s music.

Breaking News Will Focus on Video and Social Media Channels
Going digital also means using original and curated video. The Dallas Morning News will accomplish this through its partnership with NBC 5 to provide rich video content to accompany breaking news stories. Additionally, breaking news reporters will use platforms like Periscope to bring live video to their audience.

Coverage Priorities Will Change
In 2016, The Dallas Morning News’ coverage will be heavily focused on Muslims in the community, the presidential election, the City of Dallas, growth in DFW and great storytelling with new features like, “The Moment.” Stories in “The Moment” section will feature small, but pivotal moments in people’s lives. The example that Mike shared during the luncheon, was about a Dallas woman who had to stand trial against her abusive husband.

As PR pros this means that we will be challenged with providing story opportunities that are visually appealing and finding story angles for our clients that are in line with the newsroom’s priorities. It will certainly be interesting to see how The Dallas Morning News executes the shift into the digital age throughout 2016 and if this will be a business model that sticks around for a while.

This post was contributed by Krystal Morris. @KrystalNMorris


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