Where is your local news headed? Online first. And if not online first, then it moves to a different and stronger narrative for print. The message from top executive editors in central Indiana confirms where all media are headed these days – to online platforms and digital content delivery.
The Hoosier Chapter of PRSA hosted Indy Star Executive Editor Jeff Taylor and Indianapolis Monthly Editor Amanda Heckert at its December luncheon. Both are imports – Taylor heading here from a top position at the Detroit Free Press and Heckert moving here from a senior position at Atlanta magazine.
They both acknowledged that their respective staffs are mostly Hoosiers, born, bred and educated in Indiana. They said they respect what their writers know, but still hope to find the uncovered and untold stories that still surprise and delight readers with long-form narratives and bursts of breaking news online.
Taylor admitted that though he lived just one state away before moving here, he had always driven around Indianapolis rather than visiting the city. “Indianapolis is a combination of small town meets big city,” he told attendees.
Even though digital is the future, Taylor admitted that “print still pays a lot of bills around our building.”
Though the two very different outlets still feel they compete a bit in the space for exclusives, both admitted to smaller staffs and more demands on those smaller staffs.
Both confirmed disappointment to the PR practitioner crowd over the shotgun approach to pitching “news” without a local connection or tie-in to specific sections of their own publications.
Taylor said he couldn’t recall a single pitch he’s been sent via PR channels and admitted that his administrative assistant screens most of his emails and sends them to appropriate contacts on his staff. “I am surprised that people don’t read our products or have the contacts with people who cover the issues.”
Heckert echoed the same, but said she also added that localizing national trends also doesn’t fit her magazine – ever. “It’s got to be special to Indy only.”
So what do the two publications emphasize?
At The Star, Taylor said it’s all about watchdog journalism, public service stories, great storytelling and more online video – a topic scheduled for additional staff training this January. And he said the paper is hiring again. (However, news of design desk moves may leave many employees out of work if they don’t move to Louisville, according to employee posts in social media.)
Both editors talked about website redesigns coming soon, but Taylor was a bit dodgy in providing details saying he couldn’t do so for competitive reasons.
Heckert said both the Indy Monthly website and print product were headed to redesigns with the reader in mind, including online landing pages for different topics.
She said good journalism is still about storytelling – a beginning, a middle and an end. She also said the Association of Magazine Media reports that 96 percent of people age 25 and under are avid magazine readers – maybe not in print format, but still reading magazine content. Her publication launched its first iPad app in September.
With five editors and a managing editor, Heckert said: “It’s all hands on deck” at the magazine, which in December is planning ahead for its April/May issue. “The Star is a competitor in some ways. In our case, we need to take it a step further or take a new angle.”
Taylor said he shares reader metrics daily and the central hub of the newsroom is a constant reminder of what news is breaking. “The emphasis is big ‘on the moment.’ We own that, not TV. We need to be first. We need to be credible.”