The tipster presumably leaked the Portland Oregonian newspaper’s internal memo about digital strategy because he or she deemed it outrageous. That’s typically why people leak information about the companies for which they work, after all.
But in this case, I found the leak more inspiring than shocking.
The memo laid out in some detail suggestions about how workflow and newsroom attitudes should shift to meet the demands of online publishing. An employee who presumably did not agree with its tenets faxed a paper copy to Jim Romenesko, a journalist and blogger who offers commentary on news about the news and, often, a place for those in the business to vent a bit. (Interesting side note for coffee fans: Romenesko also runs Starbucks Gossip, a separate blog “monitoring America’s favorite drug dealer.”)
For the full text of the memo and the newspaper’s response to the leak, see Romenesko’s post. For those with a more passing interest, I’ve excerpted here some lines that, well, I’d recommend to my own staff.
Among the nuggets:
On attitude: “Reorient your thinking to what you can deliver for the web today. Cover your beats, push information, don’t worry about where or whether a story will play in print. Editors will worry about that for you.”
On social-media engagement: “Don’t just use Twitter as an RSS feed; that’s no good for you or your readers — you need to engage. As you post during the day, tweet. Watch for story ideas from your followers. Respond to questions. Re-tweet other stories of interest.” One of the newspaper’s avid Twitter users is quoted in the memo: “I see myself as a curator of a Twitter account. My hope is that followers will eventually find enough value that they will pull my account out of their catch-all home feed and give it its own column in TweetDeck.”
On reporting: “Work your beat per usual. Talk to folks. Do your thing. But instead of working through the day and saving information for a story you begin writing late in the afternoon, publish that information as you go. Make it short and punchy, and tweet it.”
Also: “If you’re working on a story and have an interesting interview, do a quick post summarizing that and teasing to a story that’s to come. ... Tell readers something about what you saw behind the scenes of interest, maybe that’s not going to fit the story A scenic detail; a personal anecdote; some tangential information that’s not on point with your reporting but is interesting, nonetheless.”
On what augments pen and paper: “Whenever you go out on a story, make sure you have the equipment to gather, photograph and post a story you might stumble across. For some, that might be an entire kit with a MacBook, video camera, audio recorder and MiFi — for others, it might be just an iPhone.”
On ‘minor updates’: “Often things happen with the subject of a story or an issue that aren’t quite enough for a full print story but make a perfect post.”
Notwithstanding the leaker’s other gripes or the current newsroom culture at the Oregonian, with which I have absolutely no familiarity, this seems like the outline of a responsive, engaged reporting corps that takes the news to the people. Certainly, there is much legitimate debate about the the pace and extent to which newsroom resources should be reallocated to online publication. But once the shift has been decided upon, this seems like a reasonable outline for making it happen.