by Michael Boyink/ [email protected]
It’s like herding cats.
Ever say that?
Some jobs are like that – trying to convince a thousand independently-thinking variables to go in the same general direction on some kind of a timeline.
I used to build websites for a living. I needed someone to approve the design. I needed approval on the functionality. I needed content from different departments. I needed access to current systems from the I.T. Department. I needed the lawyers to sign off on the final product. I needed executives that didn’t wait until the day after a site launch to suddenly have an opinion.
Publishing a newspaper can also be like herding cats.
Content from a hundred different sources. Photos from a dozen different cameras. Advertisements with dates, deadlines and details. Hundreds of names. Grammar. Spelling. Widowed text.
Discerning between actual news and marketing or political messages being dressed up and sold to us as news.
All on a deadline.
I know. It’s the nature of the beast. And I’m not complaining. The unpredictability keeps the job interesting.
But, there are some ways you can help us help you. Help you get your story in. Help you communicate your message better.
Up Your Photo Game
We aren’t a 24/7 shop – so we appreciate having photos submitted for events that we weren’t able to make it to.
A few tips for submitted photos:
Shoot landscape. If you are using a smart phone this means “flip your phone” so you are holding it sideways. Especially if your subject is a group of people.
Photos shot in “portrait” mode (or taken while holding your phone up/down) often have too much floor and sky that have to be cropped out.
Go large. When sending us a photo, send the largest file size your phone is capable of. Small or low resolution photos don’t print well.
Get names. If your photo has people in it, we’re going to want to know who they are.
Get the basics right. Make sure all of your subject is in the photos. Make sure the photo is focused. Make sure there isn’t a bright window behind your subject. Watch for trees and poles growing out of people’s heads.
We often get hand-written information that someone wants in the paper, and I understand that. Not everyone has access to a computer and printer.
But we also often get written material that’s obviously been typed into a computer, printed out, then brought to our office.
Send that text digitally instead. Save your printer ink, and save us from having to re-type it. Just copy/paste the text into an email. Please – ask us for help if you don’t know how. We’d be happy to help.
Work the Schedule
We’re a weekly paper. We publish on Thursdays, but our crunch period starts Monday afternoon. Tuesdays I’m usually writing feature content. Wednesday mornings we put the paper together and send it to the printer. Wednesday night we’re already delivering papers around the area.
Accordingly, if there’s something you’d like to see in the paper, the best time to talk to us about it is Wednesday through Friday of the week before it should be published.
We often accommodate last-minute newsworthy content, but the closer to deadline the less time we have to work on it.
Help Us Help You
I’ve been approached – on a Tuesday – with a story I would have liked to put in the paper, but I needed a certain photo and some additional details.
When I asked for those items, I got phone numbers to call.
I was still writing a feature, so didn’t have the time to play phone-tag for a story that wasn’t hard news. I had to let it drop.
I’m not trying to get you to do my job for me, but the easier you can make it (especially during crunch time), the more likely your story will successfully make it into print.
Herding cats. We do it every week.
And if there’s one way to improve the odds of being successful, it’s by working together.
So grab your spurs. Let’s go saddle up.