Showing some digital initative

Our company, like all newspaper companies, is playing a game of catch-up with the Web, and for the past two years or so, we have been limping along with a corporate initiative called Digital Now, an effort to boost our lagging efforts on the digital front.

The limping appears to be a thing of the past.

We had a visit last week, right before I headed out for vacation, from the Digital Now leader from corporate, who asked everyone in the building questions about how digital is inserting itself into the daily routine. Interviews spanned from the advertising department to the newsroom to IT. Said Digital Now leader made it clear that our corporation is very interested in making the Web a priority — money is involved, which makes it easier for any company to be genuinely interested in something — and that we needed to find real ways to make digital a part of our routine post haste.

Feedback was given, and this morning, a copy of the DN leader’s report found its way to my inbox. My name was mentioned far more than I am comfortable with in that report.

The report’s author is concerned that I am too much the center of digital initiatives at the paper. Well, it is part of my nebulous job description, but I see his point. He’s right when he worries in the report that if I disappeared tomorrow, a good portion of the paper’s digital efforts would vanish with me.

Corporate has made it clear they don’t want me doing it “alone” anymore, and I admit that I have been a poor teacher in those regards. No more. As soon as I get back from vacation on Wednesday, I will begin to delegate and spread awareness of digital media and the tools we have available among the reporters and other editors.

It will mean training and asking the reporters to do things that our newsroom staff has never been asked to do before. It will likely mean a change in workflow and how things get done in the newsroom. It will likely require quite a bit of time, effort and commitment from a lot of people.

I can’t guarantee it will work or, if it does, that it will work well. But I’m hopeful.

Why do I mention all this internal business to you, dear readers? Well, I hope that you’ll help me in another regard.

There are so many digital tools and methods of storytelling out there, from interactive maps to timelines to podcasts to videos to infographics. Many of these would look great on the Web, and I am more than happy to add them to our repertoire. There are just two problems: Finding just the right storytelling method and finding just the right story to use those methods on.

So here’s what I ask of you:

  • What digital storytelling methods work best for you? Plain text articles? Maps? Databases? Games? How can we present news in a way that will be useful and enjoyable to you?
  • What are the stories out there in the Chronicle’s coverage area that could stand to be told using a digital approach? Think creatively here. I’m looking for any and all ideas and your thoughts about novel ways to tell those stories. I’m open to anything.

Post replies in the comments, or send me a line at [email protected] Thanks!

PS: Bonus question

What sort of interaction would you like to see with our reporters? Would you follow public figure pages on Facebook if we started them? On Twitter? Google+? Something else? How can we make the reporters more than just bylines?