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Archive for the tag “Backpack Journalism”

ABC 10 News San Diego: New Owners, Big Investment in Homegrown Programming

ABC 10 News San Diego: New Owners, Big Investment in Homegrown Programming
Journalism 640 News Business Models–Final Project/Analysis
By Sylvia Mendoza

Business Model

In January, the E.W. Scripps Co. bought ABC 10 News San Diego and eight other television stations from McGraw-Hill Broadcasting for $212 million. According to Price Colman of TVNewsCheck, “Scripps will morph from a newspaper company that owns television stations to a broadcast company that owns some newspapers.”

The mission is to rebuild the stations’ cash flow margins and to invest in “homegrown programming to reduce its reliance on syndicated fare; bulking up investigative news efforts; reorganizing and centralizing digital operations.” The annual broadcast revenue will jump 50% to roughly $450 million. Publishing will contribute about $400 million.

J.W. August, managing editor for ABC 10 News, has been with the station for 30 years. He feels Scripps will be a great fit. “Though they’re based in Indiana, they have deep family roots here, and think local, local, local.”


There are 75 on staff. There were no layoffs during the recession or buyout. Those who have since left or retired have not been replaced. “Scripps is not about stripping down and selling it,” said August. “They’re actually building up the station.”

A consumer reporter was just hired as part of the investigations team. All new hires must be trained as backpack journalists. “It’s the only way to survive in this business now,” he said.

J.W. August, Managing Editor ABC 10 News San Diego

The Evolution

Fifteen years ago a Seattle paper had started posting articles online, explained August. “We thought, ‘How’s it going to affect us?’ But we saw the writing on the wall.” Back in the day, Internet Broadcasting Systems designed their website. “Early on, our I-team was blogging, but it took up too much time. We’d get hundreds of hits, but our goal was thousands. So we stepped back.”

They were one of the first in the U.S. to try backpack journalism. They were flown out to observe a Memphis station, which had gone completely backpack. However, August believes it had made the transition for the wrong reason—they cut bodies for profits.  

“We knew we had to feed the beast, but we did it to increase content. We had photographers learn how to be reporters and reporters learn how to be photographers. We were the laughing stock of this market for about two years.”

Now backpack journalism and multimedia is the norm. Reporters have laptops, cameras, wifi and Twitter accounts. Producers set up robot-run cameras so they can pre-program a news broadcast in advance.  Email alerts, cell phone access, apps, and Facebook are all active. The website was reconfigured to make it more user-friendly. Accessibility and posting is constant and competitive.

Sometimes a well-oiled machine can have glitches, however. “Even with a bigger team, there is a chance for more mistakes because everything’s going up so fast,” August explained. “I wrestle with that.”

Gravic, however, amazes him. This is a measurement tool that gives feedback on programming, minute by minute. “It keeps track of how a story plays, how many hits it gets, when viewers change the channel, how the headlines play, what commercials are run,” said August. Its analysis can cause a dramatic shift in content—and keep the audience planted for the entire newscast. It helps them schedule topics, breaks and headlines better, for example. “We can see if we did the story wrong, but it can also help us produce better content.”

ABC 10 News San Diego


The Internet is bringing in more advertising income in three main areas: 1.      News/broadcast (Television)2.      Website (Streaming, written product, trending topics)

3.      Azteca (Spanish language)  

“Three years ago, we saw that 40 percent of the market is Hispanic and we wanted in,” says August. It’s been slow to assimilate them. One reporter has one or two-minute cut-ins for the regular broadcasts every hour. There’s also an Azteca page on the website. It is a start for a very lucrative target market with buying power.


ABC 10 News has a partnership with XETV Channel 6 for video sharing and Sky 10 (helicopter) is shared with Channel 30. Sometimes investigative teams collaborate. 

The Future

A “newsroom of the future” is being built. The news hub will be in the center of the room and the “spokes” lead to reporters’ and editors’ desks in an effort to be more efficient and interactive.                                

ABC 10 News-KGTV

August wants to figure out a better way to better shoot photos and videos for iPhones if the majority of the population will be getting its news that way. He also sees custom newscasts somewhere down the line. “You’ll be able to pick the subjects that interest you, build your own newscasts, and have that delivered to you in your preferred format.”

No News without Journalists

There’s a limit to technology, said August. “Someone’s got to write in the field, someone has to do the quality work.” Even though the goal is to deliver more product on different platforms, quicker, a gatekeeper is needed, no matter what medium is used. August seems to look forward to the challenge. “We have a good parent company that supports the big J, and is dedicated to quality content on any platform.”

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Aiming for the Heart: Online Publishing with a Punch

Aiming for the Heart: Online Publishing with a Punch
By Sylvia Mendoza
(Master’s Program/Digital Journalism/#620 Online Publishing)

Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins

“Write, Shoot, Report & Produce for TV and Multimedia”

Online publishing puts news at a consumer’s fingertips in an instant. For any journalist trained in only print, radio or television, online publishing is a new world.  Think multi-media. Think “billboard” for posting headlines and text. Think interactive.

In the book, Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia, journalist author Al Tompkins lays out the facts of an ever-changing terrain—journalism as we’ve known it, and how a journalist must adapt to online publishing. Tompkins, who is also senior faculty for the Poynter Institute, points out how there must be a great shift in thinking, training, ethics, and coverage techniques in order to be most effective and offer readers multiple ways to consume the news. 

Poynter Institute faculty member Al Tompkins teaches how to produce effective content for multimedia journalism.

Online publishing is about engaging audience.

Online publishing should not be the same as what we put on TV. It is not TV. It is about letting the viewers, listeners and readers decide how they want to consume the news—even on that particular day, for that particular kind of news story. Visuals include maps, graphs, video, still photo galleries, raw footage, text, and links (but make sure they are legitimate, reputable and add to the story, since readers are taken away from the news site). There are “comments” sections after stories and with blogs, various ways to post on Twitter, and easy-to-follow directions to allow readers to post videos or stills on sites.

Cover a story from different angles, beyond the initial story focus. Tompkins suggests, for example, shooting half-time entertainment at high school football games to reach a different audience from the same location—band members, cheerleaders and their families. Make it personal. Localize it.

Interactive maps are another way to engage audiences. They can pinpoint where they are during a natural disaster, for example, and write a recap of what is happening in their neighborhoods.

Online, All the Time
Most users log in either midmorning or in midafternoon. There is constant updating to an online news story; however, a journalist must post with very specific, focused language. Nowadays, when audiences go online to search for a story, do research or expand their knowledge on a topic, they use search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The words they key in to “search” for their topic can lead them to a news agency’s site—if that site is using those words in the stories and headlines.

Therefore, using key words thoughtfully and strategically can garner more “readership.” This process is called search engine optimization. Tompkins pointed out how the Sacramento Bee changed its “Real Estate” section to “Homes.” He said, “People who are looking for a house do not search the words “real estate.”

Other ways to draw readership include having compelling video and photo shots that are close up rather than wide angled. Enlarge fonts and practice selective word choice.

An interesting fact from Poynter Eyetrack showed that “online users tend to read more of an article than print readers do…” so to get them to read a story, a journalist has to offer the key words they searched for. Journalists also need to write tight—no more than 800 words—and 15 words or less per sentence. In other words, the story has to be enticing, engaging, interactive, and informative.

The Journalist’s Responsibility
One is no longer “just” a print media journalist. A “backpack” journalist must sharpen her skills so that she can file her own stories, become computer savvy, involve social media tools, know basics of Photoshop, video editing and audio editing, and understand “netiquette.” At all times a journalist must think in multi-media layers. Assessing readership is crucial. Why did they come to your website? What were they expecting? How can you present information? Visitor presence is measured through page views, visitors, unique visitors and the time they all spend on the site and all these factors must be taken into account as a reporter covers stories.   

Editor, Professor, Chair of RTDNA, Stacey Woelfel. Photo credit:

Most importantly, a journalist’s code of ethics must remain steady even as online publishing changes continuously. In 2010, Tompkins, along with news director Kevin Benz, Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) chair Stacey Woelfel, attorneys and other media representatives, produced  guidelines for the ethical use of social media. These social media guidelines for journalists include truth and fairness, accountability and transparency, and image and reputation. Journalists are expected to uphold these.

Sources must always be verified. Truth must be exposed. Awareness of the casualness of social media like Twitter should not be an excuse for inaccuracy and unfairness. Personal opinions and “friending” should not cross professional lines. With an intuitive guideline, a journalist must still “aim for the heart” in order to connect with readers on an emotional, interactive level.

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