Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Year on the Horizon

If you're one of the 0 to 10 readers who check this blog daily, you're going to be a whole week or so ahead of the game. I wanted to get out all my ideas somewhere, just to see where I stand with a week left of summer, but all of you MUB 156 readers will reap the benefits.

TNH is back in seven days, and it's got a whole new attitude coming with it.

Design changes: I've finalized my front, index, left and right inside pages, and sports front templates (pending feedback from my editorial squad) and I'm happy with them. I've still got to tweak the opinion and forum pages a bit, then work on creating a whole new page that will replace the World/Nation alternating section that I feel is important but hardly ever read or looked at, but a new design is on the way. That's all you get to find out right now. It's the temptation and anticipation I want you to feel right off the bat that will keep you reading this post, I hope.

Web changes: The brand-spankin' new will launch a few days after our staff training session on Aug. 31 with an expert from College Publisher. It looks great and really bumps up our credibility on the web. Here's the link to the test site, if you're understandably impatient.

Multimedia changes: We're doing more video this year. Lots of it. I hope by about the middle of the first semester we'll have something new in the TNH Video player every week, be it a profile, student on the spot, news story, or slideshow. I've already got the interview booked for our first-ever student spotlight profile video with RJ Toman, the quarterback of the Wildcats' football team. The intrigue? He's a California dreamer on one of the best FCS teams in the country and in high school he backed up Mark Sanchez, the New York Jets' new golden boy. He's a good first subject, but the real test is to see how we put together our own studio to really make the video ours.

Worried about it not looking professional? Hush now. My dad owns the local printing franchise in my hometown, Minuteman Press, and he's offered to print a couple huge banners for us with some TNH designs tiled across it that can serve as our backdrop for the videos. Boom. I'm already thinking ESPN's Sunday Conversation but with students.

Office changes: We're still in MUB 156 (how could we not be?) but I'm hoping to make ourselves a bit more noticeable to the basement MUB passerby. Another new banner (Thanks Pops) that can hang above the door or even a clear adhesive with our design that we can stick on the door are a couple of possibilities that will soon show up around the entrance to MUB 156.

Reporting changes: The beat system. Ever heard of it? It's what real reporters use and it's what TNH is implementing next year. It creates a balance of stories, a mixture of stories and way more content. I wrote five, count 'em five, stories on trash bags this summer while I covered the towns of Manchester and Essex for the Gloucester Daily Times. Were they boring as hell? Yes. But they are much more appealing than another AP story you can find with a quick search on Google News. Local news sells, regardless of how mind-numbing. And though our paper's free to pick up and toss away, readership is important too and that will increase with more stories about UNH and less about nationwide crises.

The beat system will also get our journalists ready for the real world. Any journalism major can write a story that's assigned to them. But can they go out and make the calls to come up with a story of their own without an editor's help? That's a real test of journalism skills. I know my staff is up to the task. We'll still have weekly assignment meetings for our contributing writers because we still need them and we still appreciate the work they do, but the beat system will create a real distinction between staff and contributing writers that was only seen previously with assigning the so-called "better stories" to staffers and the rest to contributors.

Oh, and without getting into too much detail, every staff writer will be required to have their own Twitter account and update it with links to their stories and quick pithy comments about their writing process or anything else they can think of. I want to reach out and have our readers have a way to connect or "Follow" specific writers. It's not competition between our writers, it's communication with our readers. If it doesn't work out, that's fine, but I want to try it and see how it goes to start the year.

That's all I got swirling around in the ol' noodle right now, but hopefully this can bring some additional excitement to the start of the year. I'm psyched and ready to go. Are you?

Enjoy the final summer days,


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