When something newsworthy happens in Houston, Missouri, residents expect their local weekly paper to tell them about it — now.
“If people hear sirens,” says Publisher Brad Gentry, “they expect us to have the story.”
That’s the way the Houston Herald likes it.
When its reporters learn of an event, the Herald sends out a text message. It’s the paper’s first step in keeping its readers apprised of happenings through nearly every step of the news gathering process.
Recently Editor Jeff McNiell covered a high school baseball game. With the last out, he texted the score. The mother of one of the players was standing next to him and her phone went off. She turned to McNiell and said, “That’s you, isn’t it?”
Once McNiell has had a chance to review the box score and interview the coach, he tweets a highlight. When he posts the game story, working as though he were on a tight broadcast deadline, he tweets again with a link to the story.
The Herald uses software that simultaneously posts to Twitter and the paper’s Facebook page. The South Central Missouri paper, which covers Texas County and its some 25,000 inhabitants, has 879 Twitter followers and 4,383 likes of its Facebook page.
It’s all quite different from the several-days lead time some of us old weekly publishers remember.
Enterprise stories though are different.
“Feature stories belong to print,” says McNiell. He and the rest of the Herald’s news people spend Mondays working on the Messenger, a shopper that has a 4 p.m. deadline and goes to about 10,100 households. The Messenger is also inserted inside the regular Herald, which goes to the printer at 9 a.m. Wednesdays and has about 4,000 subscribers.
However, once such enterprise efforts appear in the legacy technology, McNiell then takes advantage of digital’s nearly infinite news hole.
“That’s where all the extra pictures go,” says McNiell. “People love pictures.”
He spends much of the rest of the week working on the paper’s website, which is “the backbone of our digital efforts” augmented by social media.