Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lessons on display in Biloxi

Executive Editor Stan Tiner sounds a bit like a proud papa (okay, a lot like a proud papa) when he talks about the performance of the Sun Herald staff during hurricane Gustav. And why wouldn't he?

There is also an important lesson here about our responsibility to present the news in all the ways our readers want and need it. I'll let Stan's words tell that story:

Hurricane Gustav was quite a learning experience for the Sun Herald, and one to which the newsroom team responded with an incredible and successful effort. What a testing ground for our flip video/sunherald tv reporting.

The proof is in the numbers. Of course, a hurricane always puts up big numbers on our website, but look at the results for our video – six the top ten hit parade. Think about that. A week ago most of us didn't know there was such a thing as flip video. We were lucky to post one or two videos a week before, if that.

Last Thursday the staff received training, and on Monday we went into action with nine cameras. What our web viewers got was a glimpse of the power of video by a staff of story tellers who used the cameras to tell the dynamic story of Hurricane Gustav far beyond the limits of any other news organization, since our staff doubtlessly exceeded all other news assets covering the storm in South Mississippi combined. We are learning about how web users WANT to receive information on the web, and we are delivering. Meanwhile our storytelling in words and photos represented some of the best real time reporting in the history of the paper as well as online. The photo gallery is the best I have seen and the numbers back this up. The Sun Herald photographers had the best day I have ever seen for a staff. I have never seen a better portfolio for shooters than our team took yesterday.

This experience also reminds me how the so-called “old media” aspects of our work – words in ink, and still photography – adapt so well into our interactive media world. We are evolving and growing in our skills and this is perhaps the true test of our ability to survive and prosper. I don't believe anyone will tell me I am wrong when I say our first day print edition represents the height of our powers as a newsroom team.

Awesome. That is all I can say. We learned some incredible lessons from Katrina, and yesterday's performance was so crisp and efficient and that this old editor is awed. Everyone performed at a high level and the result is platinum.

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