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Archive for May, 2013

In a world of dwindling newsroom resources, one of the harder questions is how much of your time and attention to place online. The view I tend to align with is that the future audience is going to be all-digital, and likely mostly mobile, so we need to make sure we are moving ourselves.

Then comes this new study that shows that when it comes to news consumption, a lot of what you put online may as well be wasted effort in comparison to how much use the print product gets: 92 percent of the consumption of news is on legacy platforms, only 8 percent on digital.

The temptation is to say that everyone should then devote 92 percent of their time and energy to the legacy platform. I know that’s too simplistic.

What if digital news consumption is relatively low because we just aren’t that good yet at grabbing digital users?

Or maybe the real message is to spend your online energies tailoring what you do present online to the on-the-run way that people use that medium, which in turn may mean there are things you are doing online now that you don’t really need to do, given how little use it is getting.

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As the warm weather pushed in here again last week, it reminded me of one duty of a small-town newspaper editor I learned about during my first stint at the News-Topic 25 years ago that I have not yet begun to prepare for.

At some point I have to designate a Big Bug and Weird Fruit Editor.

It’s more an honorary title than an official one. Certainly there’s no money attached.

My first editor, Lee Barnes, introduced me to the concept. When the weather gets warm, things start growing. Things that are able to move start moving.

Sometimes the growing things grow into odd shapes that perhaps look like Lyndon Baines Johnson, or Buddha, or Jim Nabors. They might not look like anything more than lumpy plant material to you, but to the one who grew it, it could practically start speaking.

Things that move are liable at some point to move into the path of a human who has never seen such a thing before. Maybe it looks like a Transformer, if those were only 2 inches long. Or a tank. Maybe the person just wants to know what it is but thought of us before thinking of the Cooperative Extension Service.

Or maybe it’s just that whenever people encounter vegetables that look like dead celebrities, fruit the size of a human head or insects that look like shrunken alien war machines, they all have one thought: If I don’t get a picture of this in the paper, something will happen to it and everyone will just say I’ve started drinking again.

So they come into the newspaper, often with a shoebox under one arm (for a big bug) or something large, ripe and maybe red in one hand (weird fruit). Sometimes the thing they brought is out in the pickup.

The job of the Big Bug and Weird Fruit Editor is to take a few photos of the Phenomenon of Nature presented and write down all the relevant information so we can run a photo in the paper. (We probably are not going to write a story, but you never know until you see what comes in the door.)

There actually is not a single person designated as Big Bug and Weird Fruit Editor (so you can relax, Kim), the duty falls to whomever is in the office. Back when I was a rookie, it often was the editor himself. But editors are well known as capricious despots, so one person might get picked on the most if I get tired of doing it (Kim).

I don’t know what the News-Topic’s policy previously has been on misshapen vegetables or scary bugs, but I plan to have an open door policy: Bring it here, but if it can fly then don’t open the door. I’ll come outside.

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