Archive for July, 2009

I’m carrying out what is hopefully an interesting experiment, inspired by The Telegraph via George Hopkin, Johnston Press’ SEO evangelist.

We have a big screen in the newsroom which is meant to display our website in an echo of 1984’s nightmarish propaganda walls.

But we’re now using Twitter aggregation site www.twitterfall.com to filter in tweets where Sunderland or SAFC are mentioned. The results after a few days are pleasing, with several leads coming via the feed.

The screen also gives the newsroom a bit more of a live feel, which is handy when trying to convey the message that there are people out there serving our audience between print deadlines.

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I can’t let today pass without celebrating a major – and it has to be said long overdue – step forward for the Sunderland Echo.

From this momentous Monday all comments on our website will be post-moderated, allowing registered users to log on and say whatever they like without their thoughts being queued (sometimes for days) awaiting approval.

Such a baby step towards engaging with our users will still seem like a dramatic leap of faith to some. Afterall, it won’t be long before the first defamatory and/or offensive comment appears attached to a story (and I should know after some of the corkers I had to reject on the Michael Jackson tribute page).

In fact, in legal terms we are safer than ever now we don’t effectively endorse every single comment. From this day forth we are no longer saying ‘this rant is ok’, even though it might have been approved by accident or through bleary eyes in the moments before an onerous deadline.

Our legal experts have confirmed what we already knew – we should let folk say what they like, and make sure other users can report comments for review by moderators, instantly hiding them from view.

The boost for interaction will be significant, with the possibility of real-time debates growing in a space away from our extremely counter-intuitive forum.

Like I say, it’s a small step. But it’s an important one for a media organisation still getting to grips with the fact we  must enter a conversation with our audience, or risking losing it altogether.

01072009871It’s on days like today that I’m glad I work online.

A choice error appeared in our print edition (though it was changed on the presses to avoid disaster). A headline about a lucky dog’s stage debut alongside a cute kid shouted: ‘It’s not such a hard-kock life for Lennie’. Oh, dear – we said ‘kock’.

It’s sometimes a curse to know that we can always go back to web content and revise, improve and correct it. There are, after all, few things more cathartic than sending your work to print before starting your next edition ready to do better (and make fewer errors) than last time around…

Had this howler appeared online, we’d have been able  to fix it instantly. Not that I ever make mistakes, of course…

PS. Relief all round that we were spot on with our 120-point page 6 feature headline on a tale about a local chef: ‘Born to Cook’