It's Our Turn: Unquenchable thirst for news
If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would be updating a breaking news story on our website’s Content Management System on a Saturday morning while riding in a car, and then posting a Bitly link to it on Facebook and “Tweeting” about it, I would’ve wondered what language they were speaking.
But that’s common newspaper procedure these days.
The constantly changing nature of the technology and all the bells and whistles that come with it is fascinating, fun, frustrating (when it doesn’t work quite right), incredibly demanding (readers’ thirst for new information is unquenchable) and seemingly limitless.
I’ll admit there are times when I wish I could transport back to the 1980s, when after we finished putting the paper out on Thursday afternoon, we could relax, knowing that our next deadline was five days away. We could take our time. Today, we are on deadline around the clock. And it keeps ticking, never stopping. When news happens, we put a story on our website right away, share it through social media and constantly update it, adding new information, photos, sometimes video.
Although it can be stressful and hectic at times, it’s an exhilarating process. When we only had a newspaper to put out, I remember how frustrating it felt when a big news story broke on a Thursday afternoon; there wasn’t a way to inform readers until the paper came out the following Wednesday.
So that’s why it was satisfying to update that breaking news story I mentioned at the top of this column. My wife and I were on our way to a 10K race in Fergus Falls that Saturday morning when I went through my e-mails on my cell phone (she was driving), and saw a news release from the police department, saying that they had arrested a second suspect in a series of local thefts.
That story in itself shows how much the twice-weekly newspaper business has changed. The newspaper was first alerted to the story by police on Friday. They were asking for the public’s help in finding two theft suspects. Within minutes, we put the story online, along with mug shots of the suspects, and posted the story on our Facebook page. In less than an hour, the post reached more than 5,000 Facebook users who were seeing and/or sharing the story.
That’s a lot of extra eyes trying to help the police. And sure enough, it worked. An Echo Press reader came across the story and provided police with information that led to the arrest of one of the suspects later that night.
This immediate interaction with readers is an exciting breakthrough. The “barriers” that prevented this from happening in the past – time and format – no longer exist. We can reach readers instantaneously through multiple platforms, not just print.
I remember first finding out about Twitter and its weird logo about eight years ago and thinking it was one of the most bird-brained ideas ever. Well, I now have an account and I’ve been posting Tweets to readers for a few months now. You can follow me at @aledenloff.
As exciting as all these changes have been, the future is brimming with tantalizing new possibilities that will connect readers and newspapers in ways we’ve never imagined. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be Gargofloffing a virtual/vid/sec of a breaking news story to our PrimePortal. Don’t try Googling those terms. They don’t exist – yet.
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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.