With the rapid migration of news and media onto the mobile platform, newspaper editors are finding all sorts of ways to keep up with the changeover and stay ahead of the trends. That’s why Randy Parker, managing editor of the York Daily Record put a tablet or smartphone into the hands of its top reporters. Further, as Parker explained at the America East 2013 newspaper conference in Hershey, Pa. they take those tablets on the road and into the community to experiment with news ways to boost reader engagement.
Parker explained that several years ago his newspaper hired Lauren Boyer for a new position to cover business news focusing on consumer issues, but he didn’t want her to stay in the office and instead tasked her with finding new ways to tell stories for the paper. York Daily Record gave Boyer the first iPad it bought, and she used it to shoot videos and tweet. Today she still finds new apps and tools to download and use on a weekly basis.
“It was one of the best investments I could have ever made because it absolutely energized her, and it accelerated her creative thinking,” Parker said. “I noticed every time I look over at her desk, she’s not there.”
Boyer’s tactics integrated social media use and traditional reporting – allowing her to venture into the community, meet new people and still stay connected with the newsroom. Often Boyer would send out a tweet that she was going to be at a particular location and invite people to stop by and tell her what she should be covering. Parker explained that a local public relations representative from Harley Davidson who was hard to get a hold of found her that way one day and chatted with her for around 45 minutes.
The second person on staff at the York Daily Record to receive an iPad was the paper’s senior reporter who covered the courts. The judge let the reporter use the iPad in the courtroom because it doesn’t break any of the court’s rules.
“[The judge] said, ‘Well, there’s no cellphones and no laptops, but this isn’t a cellphone, and this isn’t a laptop, so, yeah, I guess you can use that in the courtroom,’” Parker said. “This was a new judge. I think he was looking to bend the rules to new technology.”
The court reporter uses Scribble Live, which lets him live-blog the proceedings and sends his updates to Twitter.
Parker said he has gradually rolled out iPads to 14 staff members. In addition, the paper has purchased six Nexus 7-inch tablets for photographers, and he predicts the paper will continue to purchase Nexus tablets instead of iPads because they’re less glitchy, fit into “boy pockets,” and they are “dirt cheap.”
The paper has tried Kindle Fires and Windows Surface tablets, but they never caught on.
York Daily Record also created a “News Vroom,” an old newspaper delivery van that goes to sporting and other local events from time to time. Workers erect tents around the van that house six laptops, six smartphones, six iPads, and a WiFi router that allows connection to up to 21 devices. The paper uses the mobile connection to showcase the newspaper’s apps at events that draw crowds: its e-edition for iPad, its iPad app designed to focus on breaking news, photo streams, and methods for sharing information like Little League game scores.
Next up for the York paper: developing a pre-fall high school football tablet e-zine and a commemorative Gettysburg anniversary edition for tablet.
Photo courtesy of Digital First Media.