Archive for the ‘Innovations’ Category

Didn’t notice the change in your paper? Good.

Thursday, January 22, 2015
This is a copy of the last page the Daily Mail produced using Quark Express, part of its old publication system.

This is a copy of the last page the Daily Mail produced using QuarkXpress, part of its old publication system.

At left is the Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, edition of the Daily Mail’s Sports agate page, which has scores, stats and standings from local, college and pro teams. It probably doesn’t look too much different from the one in today’s paper. And that’s good.

Why? If you’ve been a longtime subscriber to our print edition — and if you aren’t, click here — the only changes you noticed in your paper probably came with the design we updated last winter. But from the production standpoint, a whole lot of things have changed.

About a year and a half ago, Charleston Newspapers contracted with SaxoTech, now News Cycle Solutions, to update a computer and programming system that had been in place for about 20 years, which is a long, long time, given the rapid pace of technology.

For an analogy of what was required, consider the components that comprised the old home entertainment center: a tuner, a turntable, a tape deck, a compact disc player, speakers, a VCR and a television set — about seven machines needed to provide music and video. These days, you can access all that with your average smartphone.

The Daily Mail, Gazette and Kanawha/Putnam Metro departments were using multiple programs that weren’t fully integrated; one was for writing stories, another for photos, another for page layout and one for uploading to the Internet. Our publications needed a central hub to give these programs a home where they could “talk” to each other better.

So SaxoTech helped us corral these disparate elements into a “content management system” that made it easier get text, photos and video together for a story, both in print and online. It took several months first to translate the way our newsrooms worked into its new CMS environment; it took a couple more to teach our staffers how to use it.

Meantime Charleston Newspapers’ IT department was doing the gruntwork of making sure our computers here in the city could speak with SaxoTech’s cloud-based hubs in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. (And here I will give my kudos to our techs for pulling this process off: Diana Morris, Jenny Lilly, Bill “Woody” Horn, Rob Maupin, Steve Campbell, Joel Armstrong, Ron Phillips, John Jarvis and Steve Jones — I salute you. And a tip of the hat, as well, to our pre-press manager, Kent Sowards.)

I took a selfie of SaxoTech reps Susan Gallant, left, and Beth Hilbig at the end of the first week of the paper's go-live with its new content management system.

I took a selfie with SaxoTech reps Susan Gallant, left, and Beth Hilbig at the end of the first week of the paper’s go-live with its new content management system.

We went live with the new system on the first week of March with our implementation team — Susan Gallant and Beth Hilbig, who’d been our trainers from Day One — on-site to hold our hands, answer our questions and trouble-shoot any glitches in production. (To them I give thanks for their patience and guidance as we made the six-month transition.)

This is the first Sports agate page made entirely in inDesign, part of the Daily Mail's new CMS.

This is the first Sports agate page made entirely in Adobe InDesign, part of the Daily Mail’s new CMS.

While the newsroom was abuzz with nervous energy and the stumbles that come with doing something new, our papers rolled off the press with nary a hitch.

But — and there’s always a “but” — because it took a little while longer for our designer (me) and programmer to get our agate type formatted, we had two sections of the paper that were still done using the old system.

The News Digest weather package for page 3A was up and running in the new system by August. And by the end of December, the Sports agate page was ready to roll. So finally, and with little fanfare, the Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, edition of the Daily Mail became the first to be completed entirely in the new CMS.

And no one noticed. Which is fine by us.

Articles for you

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor to dailymailwv.com, you might have noticed a new feature on the right-hand rail.

It’s called “Articles for You,” and it’s meant to serve up stories, editorials and photos based on your stated interests.

This is still a work in progress and might still require some tinkering. For now, have fun playing with it until it settles.

Basically it allows you to pick among recommended topics like “Entertainment,” “Opinion,” and “Local Government” and then serves up content from the saved categories. It seems fairly handy, especially if you are a regular visitor to the site.

Around here we call the new feature “Audience,” and we hope you like it.

select

Help us help our website get better

Friday, May 2, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor to charlestondailymail.com, you’ve probably recognized some changes recently.

We’ve rolled out a new site, but it hasn’t been completely smooth.

puterSome articles haven’t appeared in the proper locations (and some articles from the entirely wrong publication have appeared.) The navigation has been kind of challenging. And RSS feeds have been works in progress.

This is not exactly what we’d hoped.

Still, there have been some improvements.

People seem to like the fact that articles now appear on one page instead of making you click to the next page to keep reading.

And we are making progress on making our stories adjust to whatever size screen you are on.

What else needs to improve? Do you see other glitches I haven’t mentioned? (Some glitches are just us on our end as we learn to use the system.)

Thank you for your patience.

We’re moving to www.dailymailwv.com, so join us there!

Monday, December 2, 2013

If you have visited the Charleston Daily Mail’s website recently, you might have noticed a shift.

Those who visit www.dailymail.com, which has been established as the newspaper’s domain name since 1996, are quickly and automatically shifted to www.dailymailwv.com.

dailymail-logoThat’s going to be our domain name from here on out, and we want to do our best to reduce confusion.

If you use your bookmarks or favorites to visit the Daily Mail site on a regular basis, you’ll want to make a change to reflect ours.

And if you have members of our staff in your email contacts, take note that those will be changing to reflect the new dailymailwv designation. Mine, for example, will switch from bradmc@dailymailwv.com to bradmc@dailymailwv.com.

We picked the new address for a couple of reasons.

One is, it’s just a couple of keystrokes difference from the original — so it’s a relatively minor change for readers, although it is certainly a new habit to get used to, probably not unlike remembering to write the new year on your checks after each Jan. 1. We hope you adjust quickly.

Another is we want to emphasize our commitment to West Virginia coverage. Coverage of WV government news, West Virginia University and Marshall sports and Kanawha Valley news and local sports is our bread and butter. Might as well make that clear in our product’s name.

There’s another factor at work here too, and some people on social media were already guessing about it.

So, yeah, at some point I’d expect that visitors to www.charlestondailymail.com will receive news from the British tabloid. If that’s not your interest, better get in the habit of adding that extra WV.

The sale of the domain name is allowing us to reinvest in what we do here and prepare for the future.

Some of the money from the sale went to buy state-of-the-art cameras for our photographers. They’re allowing our photojournalists to shoot with faster shutter speeds, under more challenging lighting conditions and with greater image quality. The real trick to great photos is the eye of the professional photographer, but the great equipment sure does help them produce iconic images for West Virginia readers to enjoy.

More of the money has gone to purchase a new computer system that will help us modernize what we’re doing both in the newspaper and on our website. You aren’t seeing the results yet, but you will this coming spring. The system, produced by a company called NewsCycle Solutions,will enhance what we’re doing in print and online.

Much of our content will be the same — still with an emphasis on West Virginia news and sports — our hope is to make it look better.

Online the goals include: be easier to navigate, smarter suggestions about related stories, more photo galleries and greater flexibility for mobile.

Other newspaper companies are making more dramatic moves to shore up their future. Some, like The Washington Post, are selling their actual buildings. The Star Tribune in Minnesota is selling its printing plant.

These moves are what John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, would call buying “gas in the tank” to get down the road.

We’ll miss charlestondailymail.com, but comparatively this is not that big a change. And it will be worth it when  our products improve.

So please join us at dailymailwv and let the adventure there begin.

 

 

Our reporter, live from the Online News Association

Friday, October 18, 2013

Daily Mail writer Zack Harold has been at the Online News Association annual convention in Atlanta, where there’s a lot of interesting discussion about the changing nature of news.

Great catch! You get the fish!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

We hate to make mistakes, although they certainly do happen sometimes.

Last week, for example, we accidentally had two versions of the same court briefs written in different ways — and they both got in the paper. That was my fault. I proofed the page they were on and totally missed the similarities.

Oof.

At least sometimes we give readers a chance to question whether we’re awake. But we really do try to catch these things. It’s just that we’re usually trying to process a large amount of information all at once in an environment that’s more like a police dispatch center than a library — all on a daily deadline.

That’s why we have the fish.

Everybody needs a motivational tool, and the fish is ours. Actually, it’s more of a reward — a wooden fish that goes to the person who makes a big catch.

The fish made its debut under the reign of Becky Calwell, who was our news editor for many years. She got it from her husband Ben and brought it to the newsroom.

Becky Calwell

Becky Calwell

That fish once belonged to Ben Calwell. I brought it to work to give out to the copy editor who made the “best catch.” I’m sure I stole that idea from someone. I went to a copy editing conference one time in Baltimore. Maybe that is where I got the idea. I’m not sure how we decided who received it, but we all recognized a really big catch—something that would have been really embarrassing or even libelous had it gotten in the paper. I never really liked when it was staring at me either!

The fish reward has continued under our current news editor, Ashlee Maddy.

Ashlee Maddy

Ashlee Maddy

Becky bequeathed him to copy desk when she left, so we could continue the tradition. The winner of the best catch displays him on their desk until the next best catch, at which point we say, “Great catch! You get the fish!” I also find his appearance slightly creepy, but love what he represents.

At the moment, the fish resides on the desk of Whitney Humphrey, who caught a typographical error so small I could barely see it.
Good eyes! You get the fish!

 

Inside the Gazette-Mail High School Huddle

Friday, August 2, 2013

If you thought Middle East peace negotiations were complicated, try putting two newspaper sports staffs — and two photo staffs — in a room to hammer out one awesome website that will cover Kanawha Valley prep football from one end to the other.

High-School-Huddle-Final_I130801214545Actually, that last aspect — the awesomeness of the new Gazette-Mail High School Huddle — is both the end result and what made everybody involved adopt a cooperative spirit. Once everybody realized this thing could be great, everybody was on board.

And so the Huddle was born.

It’s a website that will be chock full of stories, photos and videos — plus other useful content — of the Kanawha Valley football scene. Look for content from both the Daily Mail and the Gazette in one handy location. The Daily Mail’s Tom Bragg is managing the site.

Derek Taylor_HIN9938

Derek Taylor

Derek Taylor, the Daily Mail’s preps editor, explained the Huddle better than I can in a column that ran today.

If you’re a high school football fan, I think you’re really going to like this.

It’s supposed to go live this weekend — just in time for practice in Kanawha County to start Monday.

Want to get a jump on it? Follow Derek Taylor on Twitter (@ItsreallyDT) and you’ll know exactly where it can be found the second it goes live (and keep following Derek for social media coverage of West Virginia prep sports.) The Daily Mail Sports Twitter account (@SportsDailyMail) will also let you know, as will the Huddle’s Twitter feed (@gazmailhshuddle).

The site already has its own Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/GazetteMailHSHuddle. That can keep you posted as well.

See you in the Huddle!