Newstrain heads into Webland, Cajun style
I had the privilege of leading two days of Newstrain training for an engaged and motivated group of editors and reporters at the New Orleans Times-Picayune last week. About 75 folks from around the region and Montreal (hunh?) packed a dingy room at the paper and made it the most exciting place to be for a journalist intrested in heading into the future.
My co-leader, Michael Roberts of the Arizona Republic, and I divvied up a basket of seminars. Michael's the Republic's staff development DME, and that paper's a Gannett shop, so they've completely reorganized their newsroom top-to-bottom (they call them "information centers" now.) So he's a pro at teaching things like how to do video, slideshows and multimedia.
I spent the better part of the past two weekends developing three hour-and-a-half sessions from scratch. I put together a big picture overview; a look at the new digital technologies (widgets, blogs, social networks etc.) that reporters can use to gather the news, and Web producers can use to distribute news; and a presentation on data strategy, with a focus on metadata and taxonomy. I also taught a session on writing for online.
I worried that I was trying to cram too much into what I did, and maybe I did a bit, but the attendees kept me on my toes with excellent questions and provocative challenges to my assertions. Not only during the preparation, but also during the give-and-take, I feel as if I learned as much as I tried to impart.
Our host, Peter Kovacs, the Times-Picayune ME, also provided stimulating lunch and dinner conversation, especially as he recounted the amazing story of how the paper got on its feet right after Katrina.
Newstrain's embrace of Web training is a terrific development. The program, run in part by my former ME in Orlando, Elaine Kramer, is a bargain for journalists hoping to transition to the new frontier.