Unharnessed from daily print routine, can you build a more relevant site?

Christian Science Monitor Editor John Yemma speaks to AEJMC attendees

Christian Science Monitor Editor John Yemma speaks to AEJMC attendees

Christian Science Monitor editor John Yemma said that’s been the case at his paper since its print publication cycle was reduced from daily to weekly in March of this year. (Apologies for crappy iPhone photo.)

Speaking to journalism professors at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Boston two weeks ago, Yemma said that the paper’s Web site was seeing 25 percent more traffic than a year ago.

Academic research on journalism has long shown that routines – the processes surrounding the production of the proverbial daily miracle on your doorstep each morning – have a profound impact on the kind of news produced.

The need to get a predictable flow of news on deadline helps explain, for example, the preponderance of official or institutional sources in the news despite most journalist’s espoused commitment to stay connected with “regular folks.” These sources are often easily accessible via consistent means (e.g. police reports) on deadline.

My own research has found that even in newsrooms committed to change, print routines get in the way of innovation and give people a sense they are struggling to serve two masters — but are largely necessary to maintain as long as the paper comes out each morning.

Yemma said that instead of spending each day focused primarily on moving along what the editors believe are the best stories to completion, the Monitor can now be more nimble and flexible, breaking short items of news and being attentive to the kinds of topics that are currently getting a lot of buzz on the Web.

Often, these tend to be stories more focused on conflict or controversy, he added, and sometimes some of the editing process occurs post-publication.

In the meantime, the weekly print edition gives staff more time to develop on weighty, in-depth stories.

Bill Mitchell of Poynter also wrote about Yemma’s talk. Read it here.

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Filed under News routines and processes, Real Live Changing Newsrooms

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