What we’re up to (so far) at the University Daily Kansan

Last time I published a post on Medium, it was this list of goals for myself and the fall semester’s University Daily Kansan staff.

Well, after a summer of internships, planning, stress, excitement, the back-to-school issue, training and everything in between, here is what we accomplished last week — our first week of classes, back from summer break.

Disclaimer: If it sounds like I am bragging, it’s because I totally am. 100 percent, unashamed bragging about the kick-ass first week our team had. I’m beyond proud of the amazing editors who I get to work alongside daily. Everyone has stepped up to a bar Emma and I set pretty dang high, and everyone has exceeded our expectations.

Our awesome team at work putting together the paper that published last Monday, Aug. 24, 2015.

What we did during the first week of classes:

  • Launched an email newsletter that we send out Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Click here to read the most recent one and click here to subscribe.
  • Launched morning and evening roundup posts that publish daily on Kansan.com and social channels at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Flipped the production schedule. Now our editors come in before 9 a.m. and stay until (at least) 6 p.m.
  • So what happens after 6 p.m., you ask? Every evening from 6 to 10 p.m., we have a night editor. That editor doesn’t have to be in the newsroom, but he or she edits and publishes late content. There is also a late reporter on call, so the late editor monitors social media and assigns the reporter as-needed. So far, it’s worked well.
  • Introduced a new workflow that our Digital Operations Manager, Miranda Davis, created. Now, reporters and editors file straight into our content management system, BLOX. Miranda created it so stories that are saved into the workflow can be promoted from first draft to content edit to copy edit to slot to web/print ready. It’s a more sustainable and realistic workflow than previously used (which was Google Docs). In addition to our workflow within BLOX, we use Slack to communicate with one another. It’s a messaging system made for the workplace. Instead of waiting for emails, we just IM one another. Sections can communicate seamlessly, reporters can send photos/ relay information if they’re on scene when news breaks, and the managing editor can assign copy editors stories to edit. But Slack is also pretty fun — you can use emojis and post gifs, which makes work a bit more fun. We use it to communicate nearly everything we do.
  • Redesigned Kansan.com (another S/O to Miranda)
  • Published two print papers (S/O to Managing Editor, Emma LeGault, for making it happen). Implemented redesign concepts.
This is the back-to-school edition.
  • Implemented two daily meetings (and stuck to the target post times, mostly). Prioritized site/ social metrics at our content meetings: Section editors give digital, social media and managing editor “target post times” for stories, photos, videos and graphics.
  • News (example 1, ex 2), sports (ex 1, ex 2) and arts & culture (ex) saw something on social media and then reacted by publishing posts on Kansan.com.

We are starting to function like a professional newsroom! Of course, we can’t do that fully because we are students, and this is not our full-time job … But we’re getting there. People are learning things. Emma is learning things. And I am certainly learning things. Every day.

I’ve worked at the Kansan for a long time (too long?), and this is the first time it’s truly felt like a digital-first mindset. Granted, fewer print papers = less panic for filling a paper just for the sake of content. But still. How we’re working now is how I wanted it to go the last time I was EIC. Now, it’s all fallen into place because of the strides the three editors since me made.

Wow, Katie! You’re painting such a rosy picture. Everything sounds like it’s going perfectly!

LOL.

It’s not quite perfect — we have plenty of room for growth, but mainly everyone has exceeded expectations.

We’ve already made adjustments to our workflow, who works in the newsroom when, how we communicate and more. As with every semester, we’re all adjusting to one another. We’re also really adjusting to a new way of doing things. There are growing pains, of course, but generally people are doing great work.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the semester. I want to share our progress as we achieve goals — and even when we don’t.

I truly can’t express how proud I am of the University Daily Kansan’s fall 2015 news staff.

If you have any questions, you can email them to me at kkutsko@kansan.com. I’m more than happy to take advice and concerns, too.

Useful documents for people who care about nerdy newsroom things: