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Mar 04

How to Write for Web Pages - Part 13 – The Curation of Story Ideas

Posted by Bill Anderton

Story ideas can be plentiful. However, the resources to develop story ideas into words, pictures and other media ready to place onto a web page are always in short supply. Webmasters never have enough editorial resources to develop everything they wish they could.

As a result, all editorial departments must have a process to select from the many possible story ideas those few that are worthy of using the limited developmental resources. The problem is a classical one of contention for valuable (and often scarce) resources and is similar to the contention for capital or other budget resources. Which set of story ideas will yield the best possible result for the websites’ missions, objections and strategies?

The homily, “getting the most bang for the buck” comes to mind.

The selection process is called curation and judges the relative merits of story ideas to determine if the idea is worthy of investing in the development of the idea into a finished story. One can’t develop everything, so which ideas, if developed, best fulfill our missions, objections and strategies?

Curation should be intentional, not accidental. Curation should be thoughtful, not based on whimsy. Curation is serious business and is worthy of some gravitas not just implementing the first story idea that come to mind or is the next on some list. The more limited a church’s editorial resources, the more thoughtful the curation process has to be.

Curation is not nearly as subjective as you might first think. While some subjective judgment does come into play, there are also plenty of objective criteria one can apply to the curation process.

Role of the Assignments Editor

In classical editorial organizations, the curator-in-chief is the assignments editor.

An assignment editor is the person who selects, develops and plans writing-reporting assignments for either news events or feature stories to be covered and published in a website. The position and role of an assignment editor come from newspapers, radio stations and television stations. Websites also use these roles as analogs for positions that perform these same duties and functions.

In many very small websites, webmasters often assume the role of the assignment editor and integrate these responsibilities into their duties. Even in larger websites, assignments editor functions might be combined with the functions and tasks of another editor. In the largest websites, the assignments editor might be a dedicated role or even a small group of staff people.

For all non-beat stories, when the assignment editor decides to develop a story idea, the assignment editor then selects the particular writer-reporter for the story. The basis for assigning a specific story to a particular writer-reporter is typically based on having specific skills and experience. Therefore, it is up to the assignment editor to assess the skills of all of the writers-reporters on staff, as well as those who are freelancing or stringing for the website.

An assignment editor typically has experience working on the website as another editor or as a writer-reporter. The role of the assignment editor is best suited to someone with sound judgment and considerable local knowledge of the church and its community. The assignments editor position is considered a senior staff position on the web team reporting to the editor-in-chief or the webmaster.

At many smaller websites, the duties of the assignment editor are often combined with other editor positions, even the webmaster job.

Functions of Assignments Editors

Assignment editors perform inter-related functions:

  • Collect story ideas from all sources
  • Chairs the curation process for story ideas if using a committee
  • Assigns story ideas selected to beat reporters or other writer-reporters for development
  • Tracks the progress of assignments as story ideas are developed
  • Supports field reporters working on assignments
  • Receives the completed assignment, oversees the intake best practices and distributes completed assignments into the editorial process

The role of assignments editor is sometimes called the “assignment desk” when the tasks are shared by multiple staff members working closely in concert with each other.

Part of the job of the assignment desk or a solo assignment editor is to field calls, e-mail and other contacts from the public who are offering story ideas, news and information about covered events. These contacts will alert the assignment desk about:

  • Alerts might be about minor items or major ones
  • Urgent items such as accidents, sickness or deaths
  • Complaints about community life or community institutions
  • Likewise, about compliments too
  • Opinions or information about a current or pending decisions that a state or local government is making
  • Events in the lives of congregants or their families
  • Local entrepreneurs wanting to promote a product or service
  • News tips
  • Press releases or notices of news conferences

The role of an assignment desk is to sift through all of the incoming contacts/reports to determine which items are worthy of editorial space in the website and the application of the necessary editorial assets to develop selected items into coverage.

The assignments desk also is the primary first contact with all of the beat reports. Beat reporters convey news and information about what is happening on their individual beats to the assignments desk. In turn, the assignment desk looks for linkage and synergy among different beats and other potential stories in the ideation and development stages.

If a major story occurs, such as a disaster or a “big deal” event, an assignment editor might call upon multiple writers-reporters to cover various aspects of a breaking story and coordinate coverage.

In addition to incoming news and information, the assignments desk is also steward and custodian of the various lists of story ideas compiled in the story ideation processes by the editorial staff in the brainstorming phases.

Curation of Ideas

Not all story ideas will be worthy of publishing. Some will be good ideas, but other won’t.

The curation process makes both objective and subjective judgments about story ideas.

The curation process of story ideas is the intentional act that:

  • Sorting the vast number of submitted or brainstormed story ideas
  • Assessing their importance to your website
  • Organizing them in a coherent way
  • Selects specific ideas for development
  • Fleshes out the raw idea by adding editorial direction, background and other value-adding ideas
  • Presents the story idea to the writers-reporters selected to develop the story idea

Final responsibility for the curation of story ideas is typically an assignments editor, perhaps in consultation with the webmaster. When a web team has a dedicated assignments editor working for the webmaster, there is always a close collaboration between the two. In small websites, curation might be done entirely by the webmaster fulfilling the role of the assignment editor. In large websites, the assignment editor is sometimes assisted by a team working in collaboration.

Newsworthiness and Story Ideas

To insiders, the things that happen in the normal life and ministry of our churches and ministries may seem routine. It is hard for some to recognize the newsworthiness of the things that happen right in front of them.

It is a can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees thing.

However, there are creative ways to think about the activities happening close to you and how they might fit the newsworthiness criteria.

The curation of a story idea begins with the assessment of the newsworthiness of the idea.

In earlier installments of this tutorial I have used the terms newsworthy and newsworthiness many times. These are not abstract concepts to journalists.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines newsworthy as:

“Interesting enough to the general public to warrant reporting.”

However, to a journalist, the term is even more concrete. Journalistic training teaches that newsworthiness is defined by certain criteria:

  • Timing – Something that is new is usually newsworthy; as are things that are current. Timing-based news goes stale quickly. In the Internet age where updates happen minute to minute, timing-based news will be discarded immediately. If something happens today, it is news. If it happened last month, it is no longer news or loses a lot of its interest value. One exception to this rule is a story that has a coincidence of timing. Something that happened in the past can become newsworthy again if it is directly tied to a current event or news item. The more directly related the past item is and the larger the scope of the related current new item, the more newsworthy the past event might be.

Can you connect a church event, your work, a mission project, sermons, etc. to:

  • Current events?
  • Ongoing media stories?
  • Conversations happening on social networking sites, blogs and other online sites?
  • Other church happenings?
  • Pertinent topics in your church denomination?
  • Significance – You can measure significant by the number of people impacted by the story. A news event that affects thousands of people is more newsworthy that one that affects hundreds or tens of people. Significance is a question of relative scale.

Stories can be significant if they:

  • Involve many people
  • Impact people over an extended period
  • Affect the quality of life of anyone in a profound way, even if  just a few
  • Correctly can use superlatives such as “first of its kind”, “the largest to date”, “fastest”, “most cost-effective”, etc.
  • Proximity – There is a deep underlying truth to the homily, “All politics are local!” Stories that happen physically close to us are more significant than those that happen far way. The closer stories happen to us, the more newsworthy the story. Defining proximity solely in a strict geographical distance isn’t always appropriate. You must factor into the proximity calculation the people and places with which we hold dear and have special bonds. For example, here in Texas we’re only several hundred miles from Mexico. But, a story in the California, several thousand miles away, might be newsworthy in its proximity because it impacts our fellow countrymen rather than a foreign sovereign.

People inherently care about what is close to home, literally or figuratively.

  • Local issues demonstrate proximity.
  • Are you doing something that helps solve a problem that impacts your community?
  • Prominence – Stories directly involving famous people or institutions are inherently more newsworthy that stories of us ordinary folk. Making a story prominent is why famous people lend their names and celebrity to obscure causes; it makes them newsworthy.
  • Expert opinion – As subject-matter experts, your clergy can add constructive thoughts and opinions to subjects that are the subject of community attention, either local or national.

Whenever you have an opportunity to contribute to the public debate, do so. Be thoughtful about how you do it.

  • Conflict and controversy – Conflict and controversy within society, your community or your church are inherently newsworthy. Conflict and controversy also naturally present the opportunity for exploring the various sides of the issues.
  • Human Interest – The criteria of newsworthiness has one special case, one exception to the rule: human interest stories. Often the rules don’t apply to human interest stories. Human interest stories don’t go stale as quickly, they don’t need to impact lots of people, nobody has to be prominent and the story can occur anywhere in the world. Human interest stories appeal to the emotion of the reader. They evoke responses such as sadness, anger or amusement. The emotional appeal is largely immune from the usual newsworthiness criteria.
    • Does your story engage readers’ emotions as well as have a far-reaching impact?
    • For example, does a mission project help underprivileged people with some significant impact? Will it have a lasting effect?

Newsworthiness and Church Websites

The traditional newsworthiness criteria of journalists apply to church websites too. A story that is newsworthy for a local newspaper or magazine is newsworthy for a church website too.

However, the newsworthiness criteria for a church website have another aspect in its application.

Remember in Part 3 of this tutorial when I wrote about the dual nature of the content written for church websites? The inside-the-church-and-outside-the-church duality of your content means that you are judging newsworthiness through both lenses: newsworthiness for inside your church and newsworthiness for outside your church and community.

You still ask, “Is this story newsworthy?” and use the same criteria to judge the answer. However, you ask the question two ways, (1) “Is this story newsworthy inside the church?” and (2) “Is this story newsworthy outside the church?”

Teaching Newsworthiness to Editorial Staff

It is important that the skill for judging newsworthiness is inculcated throughout the entire staff, both editorial and writers-reporters. Newsworthiness is a common thread that all must understand.

In almost all websites with volunteer staff, you will have to teach newsworthiness as a practice. For this reason, I have prepared an exercise that might be helpful.

Ask the staff to study my discussion on newsworthiness and to meet for a tutorial. Gather the staff in a meeting room with a whiteboard or a paper flip chart.

Ask the staff, “What stories are important in your church life?” and write their answers on the board.

Try to get at least ten story ideas on the list.

Then ask everybody to rank the newsworthiness of each idea. As a result, you have a ranked list of story ideas identified as the most newsworthy stories and the least.

Now ask the staff to reflect on the rankings and identify criteria that they used to rank the story ideas. Use the two opposite poles of the list as examples. What factors did the stories at the top of the list have that the ones on the bottom don’t?

Ask the staff if they think there are any differences between information and news? What is it about news that makes it different from mere information? Discuss as many differences as the editorial staff can. Develop the resulting criteria on the board. Now, go back the list of story ideas and make a note of which stories are news and which are information.

Now contrast the staff developed news and information criteria against the standard six values that journalists use for newsworthiness:

  • Timeliness
  • Significance
  •  Proximity
  • Conflict and controversy
  • Expert opinion
  • Human interest

After a discussion of the criteria of journalistic newsworthiness, revisit your list of story ideas. Ask the editorial staff to reconsider the labeling of each story as news or information. Were any changes needed? Also, reconsider the ranking of the idea. Discuss all of the changes and why needed.

Now, ask the editorial staff to reflect on all of the ideas labeled as information. Can any of the informational stories be made more newsworthy by changing the approach or slant on the story?

You might have to repeat this exercise multiple times throughout the year, each with a different approach but aimed at teaching the concept of newsworthiness.

By the way, the results of each exercise (the ideas place on the whiteboard) are very like good story ideas worthy of development.

Completing the Curation Process

Curation of a story is more complex that merely determining its newsworthiness. Newsworthiness is a critical filter in the curation process, but other criteria and judgments must also be applied to curate a story idea entirely and make it ready for content development.

In this tutorial, I have often described good content as being intentional. Good content is should be deliberately and purposefully developed.

The complete curation process is a direct result of intentionality.

The remainder of the curation processes after passing the newsworthiness is both creative and subjective. You will make subjective judgment calls that are okay and natural parts of the curation process.

Consider the Idea as a Story

Not all ideas, even newsworthy ideas, will make good stories.

As simple as it sounds, deciding what story can be told based on your idea is a good second step after determining its newsworthiness. The story idea is the seed of the development process. Identifying the story that you want to tell is the next phase of the storytelling process.

All good stories have some common traits about what makes a good story and how one gets crafted.

  • Can you start with the basics of any journalistic story? – Can you do the first things first: can the 5 Ws and an H questions be answered: who, what, where, when, why and how? Can they be answered so as to be true, accurate and fair?
  • What is the significance of the story? - Why should your reader or anyone else care about this story? The assignment editor and the writer-reporter need to understand the answer to the question because they are the ones who will have to explain the story to readers. Never assume that your readers will automatically know the answer. As the storytellers of this story, tell them! Figure out how to connect the story with the audience.
  • What is the essence of the story? The essence of the story will determine its headline, lead and nutgraf. While the essence of the story might not be nailed down in the curation process, it is easy to get a general idea on important stories. However, be flexible because the writer-reporter might only find the true essence of the story when doing the reporting phase in the field.
  • When telling this story, can you speak plainly? – Some stories may not be easy to tell in plain language. Can you tell your story in words that people commonly use and can readily understand? Can you speak as an ordinary person would? How would tell this story over lunch with a group of friends? How would you start? How would summarize the essence of the story? What details would you include? Can you use simple, direct language without the need literary embellishments? Can you tell the story by speaking like a human, not a bureaucrat or a used-car salesman?
  • How can the story be made to flow smoothly? – Readers will want to know what happens next even as they read a story. Stories need pacing and a narrative thread. How can you keep things moving smoothly but also moving along crisply?
  • What are the appropriate emotions to which you can appeal? - Emotions can be powerful connectors with readers. However, emotions in the story have to be appropriate and be real. Writing with emotion requires care but used correctly, can go a long way toward imparting understanding among diverse groups of people. When writing to convey emotion, think about word pictures you can use. Consider the real-world visuals and sound inherent in the story. Then, use words to express them. Communicate the full emotional range inherent in a story. Connect the emotions to the story’s characters.
  • What is the plan for reporting and writing the story? – Complex stories need planning. You need a plan of action about how to perform the reporting phase. What details do you need to flesh out the rough story idea? What are the most important parts of the story? How can you connect the pieces into a coherent story? What sources can provide the details? Do you have time to do the story justice before its deadline?

Targeting an Audience

Identifying what is newsworthy depends to some extent on the audience you are targeting in the website; either as a whole or in particular portions of your overall audience.

We have previously identified two audiences: (1) those inside your church; and (2) those outside your church. However, audience targeting doesn’t stop there. Age can play a significant role too. The stories that are newsworthy for a senior citizen might not be for a high-schooler. Residency can also play a role. Newsworthiness for an intercity urban dweller can be different for the rural resident.

Keep your various audiences in mind when you pick a story idea to develop. Consider things that will have an interest to each targeted audience. Think about the angle of the story that will make your audience relate to the story and keep them interested. Keeping audiences interested is always challenging. Your story should be told in a way that it is relevant today and in the future.

Audience targeting might influence acceptance of the story idea for development or its rejection. Audience targeting might be absolute, or it might be a case of slant for various audiences. Sometimes, the same story idea can be tailor for several audience, so one story becomes several, each with its target audience.

Placement: Above-the-Fold and Centerpiece Stories

The potential placement of the story is an important part of the curation process. Certain sections of the website may need new content, and that requirement will drive potential assignments. Other stories might be significant enough where the placement of the story is determined solely by the story.

Story ideas with high importance or great potential interest should be positioned above-the-fold on its web page, so you expose the headline and the lead without having to scroll down the page. High-value stories can also be centerpieces of a series of related stories or an entire section of the website.

How and where to play stories are usually direct functions of how newsworthy the developed stories will be. Teach your editorial staff always to be on the lookout for these special stories.

The following definitions are examples of two key terms in story placement.

  • Above-the-fold story - is a position on a web page where it is seen first without the need to scroll down the page. It is the first portion of the page seen when it is rendered in a browser.
  • Centerpiece story- is a story issue intended to be the main focus of attention on a web page or even an entire section of the website. Centerpiece stories always start above the fold.

Both types of stories should have strong headlines. The headline should accurately reflect the content of the story. It should also capture the interest of readers and compel them to want to read more.

Both types of stories can be used to target particular audiences among your readership of your website.

Editorial Discussion of Story Ideas

In most websites significant enough to have multiple people working or volunteering on their editorial staff, story ideas are often discussed in a group meeting setting as part of the curation process. Group discussion of story ideas allows multiple points of view.

Ideas and their curation are openly discussed among the team and usually improved, as a result.

Editorial discussion of story ideas can happen anywhere in the curation process. Some websites do it early in the process, even discussing newsworthiness. Other websites do it near the end of the curation process as a last checks-and-balance of story ideas before assignment for the development of the story.

Selection for Content Development

At the end of the curation process, certain story ideas will be selected for development. Typically, stories ideas selected for development are the best story ideas coming out of the curation process.

It is common that the brainstorming and curation process will yield more story ideas than websites have development resources to produce. Few websites can produce everything. For this reason, some selection process decides which ideas should consume the websites’ limited development resources.

The webmaster or the assignment editor or both working together collaboratively, select which story ideas to develop.

Selection usually involves some degree of subjective judgment, educated and insightful judgment, but judgment none the less.

Story ideas not selected stay in a selection queue. Just because the selection doesn’t happen today doesn’t mean that a story won’t appropriate and for this reason selected tomorrow.

Packaging an Assignment

Once you select a story idea for development, an assignment editor should develop an “assignment package” to pass along to the writer-reporter chosen to develop the story.

An assignment package might be a written memorandum of one or more pages that detail the assignment editor’s expectations of the writer-reporter developing a story.

With an experienced editorial team blessed with experienced writers-reporters, assignment packages might be very brief; a couple of paragraphs in an e-mail might be enough.

For inexperienced writers-reporters, assignment packages will typically be more complete. The purpose of a complete assignment packages is to get writers-reporters off to a good start and be helpful developing the story that the editors are wanting.

Conscientious assignment editors will provide all of the known “givens” about their assignments.

A more fulsome assignment package might contain all or some of the following:

  • Establish a deadline – It is important that you establish a clear non-ambiguous deadline for the writer-reporter who will get the assignment. Deadlines should be reasonable and allow the writer-reporter enough time to complete the assignment as envisioned by the assignments editor.
  • Establish the submission method – Let the writers-reporters now how they should submit the completed assignment.
  • Set an expected word count – Set the length of the story as measured by word count.
  • Research background - What information should be used to make this story connect to a wider audience? How is it relevant? How does this story relate to larger issues? What is the appeal of this story? Gather information from a variety of sources.
  • Identify sources - Make a list of all possible sources. Pay particular attention to sources that can add depth and vividness to the story. Sources may include congregants, their family members and eyewitnesses. Also, identify the names of any experts who might add meaningful context or perspective to the story.
  • Develop a story pitch - Prepare a short pitch (less than 250 words, or so). You might ask, “Why does an assignment editor need to write a story pitch? Aren’t they the recipients of pitches?” Normally yes, but a story pitch is good information to pass along to the writer-reporter too.
  • Finding the sources that a story needs – Every story have and needs sources, people who can provide information about the story. Sources can be people on the street or acknowledged experts in the field of the story. It is the duty of the writer-reporter to determine who needs to be spoken to, track them down, and get the information necessary for the story. However, a good assignment editor can help get the ball rolling. Often, some intrinsic sources are attached to the story in its ideation. The assignment editor might add other sources. Anything that the assignment editor can pass along in the “givens” of the story package is very helpful to the writer-reporter developing the story. Writers-reporters may elect to find and use their own sources, but any that the assignment editor can provide is always helpful.
  • If you have a particular news peg and hook in mind, let the writer-reporter know in the assignment package. However, the assignment editor should show a bit of restraint here, you don’t want to micro-manage your writer-reporters. While it is okay to proffer a desired news peg and hook as part of the curation process, make sure it is understood only to be a suggestion. Be prepared for the suggested news peg and hook to change as needed as a result of the field reporting. When working with experienced writers-reporters, depend on your people to find the proper news peg and hook as the story develops.
  • Discuss any anticipated story placement – Let the writers-reporters know in advance if the editors anticipate using the resulting story in any special position.
  • Are there “art” possibilities? – “Art” is photographs or illustrations that can help the story. Web page can carry multimedia payloads so all stories with the possibility of art should always be noted or reported to the assignments editor. Think pictures! Think about the photo opportunities. Some stories need art other can get by without it. However, it should always be explored. The assignment editor may have some ideas to include in the “givens” of the story package. In other cases, the assignments editor may only tell the writer-reporter to, “Look for art!” At some websites, writers-reporters also are required take any pictures necessary for the story (a relatively standard practice.) At others, a staff or volunteer photographer might be assigned.
  • Provide any desired or required structure for providing editorial discussion or guidance. Detail any editorial conferences and collaboration that the editors wish. Provide contact information so the writers-reporters know who and how to get in touch with the editors who will be collaborating on each assignment.

Completed assignment packages might be circulated among the editorial staff for comment before assigned to a writer-reporter. Circulation of the assignment package is an especially good idea if you have an inexperienced just-leaning-the-ropes editorial staff. The mere act of making and reviewing assignment packages commit the entire story ideation process to paper. One can learn a lot just by reading and assignment package. The hands-on development of assignment packages is learning exercises.

As both the editorial staff and writer-report staff become experienced and more mature, assignment packages tend to take on a more shorthand form, but I still think they are useful for both groups. The act of documenting the story idea causes everybody to have to think about the story idea in depth.

Selecting a Writer-Reporter for the Assignment

With the finished assignment package, the assignment editor will be ready to assign a writer-reporter to the task of developing the story idea into a finished piece of copy for publication.

An assignment editor should get to know the capabilities of each writer-reporting working on the church website. Make an assessment of their skills and abilities so you can assign the story ideas that play to the strengths of each.

However, don’t be afraid to make assignments that challenge your writer-reporters to grow. Remember, writing and reporting is a learn-by-doing situation. Be prepared to mentor and tutor your rookie writers-reporters, so they develop their skills. You will likely find that if you create an environment for learning and growth, you will find it much easier to recruit new volunteers to do content development.

In this section of the tutorial, I will be assuming that the assignment editor has the blessing of multiple writers-reporters from which to select for each assignment. Some church websites do, but I certainly acknowledge that others don’t.

Assignment editors have to work with the resources that are available to develop content. If you only have one writer-reporter, this section of the tutorial may be moot. However, even in situations with only one writer-reporter, the qualities mentioned in this section are admirable qualities for the available writer-reporter to have. If not, the qualities mentioned here can serve as a roadmap for skills development for the writer-reporter.

  • Pick a writer-reporter who will care about the story - The best stories are always written by writers-reporters who care about what they are writing, the stories matter to them. Match each assignment to the writer-reporter. Assign writers-reporters who can connect to the topic. If your writer-reporter cares, it will reflect on the story and gets readers more involved.
  • Pick the writer-reporter who can know to subject – Writers-reporters don’t have to be experts on the topic of the assignment, but they must know how to learn about the subject in order to report about it. They need to know as much as they can about their topics. Not just facts and figures (although this is important too), but also different opinions and points of view. Learning about a topic can be through research. It can also through talking to people who have first-hand knowledge and direct experiences with the topic or known subject-matter experts or authorities. All writers-reporters will learn something new that will lead to asking better questions and better reporting. It is very common that writers-reporters will learn things that lead to a different approach to writing the story than either they or the assignment editor initially thought.
  • Pick a writer-reporter who can put the audience in the story – Some assignments will greatly benefit from the skills of the writer-reporter who can bring the story to life for their readers. Not all writer-reporters have this skill. Match the assignment that needs these skills with the writer-reporter who can deliver the story.
  • Pick a writer-reporter who can make the story personal – Some stories are best when told through the eyes of the people who are the subjects of the story; people who have direct connections with the story being told. The writer-reporter just lets them tell their story. The skill to do this type of writing is not shared equally by all writers-reporters. Again, match the assignment to the skills of the writer-reporter.
  • Pick a writer-reporter who can put the website’s stamp on the story – Good websites develop unique approaches to storytelling and editorial voice that becomes their “editorial brand” or stamp. Tailoring the approach and voice of a story to different audiences and different subjects puts a “stamp” on the content that brings a particular personality to stories. Your stamp is an opportunity to be creative and to make stories memorable.
  • Pick a writer-reporter who can tell the story – It is always challenging to keep audiences interested in the story. Each story will require certain skills from the storyteller. Match the story to the storyteller.

Supporting the Writer-Reporter on Assignment

The complete curation process is nearing completion, and only one significant task remains: supporting the writer-reporter while on assignment.

Assignment editors should help writers-reporters while they are developing the story idea into a finished piece of copy. Questions may arise, or a writer-reporter may seek an opinion about how to write something. They may need help with any number of issues.

The assignment editor should be available to provide help and support whenever needed. Also, assignment editors should be available for any scheduled editorial conferences or ad-hoc meetings requested by writers-reporters.

The assignment editor should maintain on-going contact with writers-reporters while they are on assignment and have a general idea of how story development is progressing, particularly as deadlines approach. Assignment editors shouldn’t micro-manage writers-reporters, only keep a general awareness of the situation.

As a senior editorial position on the web team, assignment editors are frequently called upon to help writers-reporters with skills development in the form of on-the-job training. Assignment editors should help writers-reporters become better at their assignments. Writing and reporting have strong learn-by-doing components in the development of real skills. Great assignment editors mentor newbie writers-reporters while they are learning.

Completing the Assignment

When the writer-reporter finishes the assignment and submits the completed story and all of its support files, the assignment editor’s tasks are almost completed.

The assignment editor will receive the submitted files and immediately back them up using the procedures and methods established by the webmaster.

The assignment editor will check the story to make sure it is complete and fulfills the assignment. If the assignment is incomplete or questions arise, the assignment editor will contact the writer-reporter for clarification.

The assignment editor will then send copies of the completed assignment to the web editors to begin the editorial process that edits the story and prepares it for publication.

With the ideation, curation, assignment and story development completed, the assignment editor’s tasks for this story are completed.

Small Stories

Much of what is written above refers to the curation of larger, more-important feature stories. Rightly so, these are important stories, consume significant development resources and obviously worthy of critical attention.

However, some of the ideas selected for development will be smaller stories; smaller in scope and word count. Not everything will be important feature stories.

You may only need a paragraph or two about a limited-scope story to add to your home page or a sidebar. Or, perhaps just 50 words for a calendar details page. You may need Facebook post and tweets written.

Too often, webmasters feel that small stories are “not worth the candle” of curation. Such attitudes are unfortunate.

While small, these are none the less important stories to the success of websites. In their totality, they serve as the glue that knit websites together and provide coherence.

Small stories are worthy of curation too. The curation process of small stories might be more streamlined and quicker to execute, but the overall concept remains the same. The process is still intentional and directed.

The curation process for a small story still requires a worthy idea, someone to write the story and an assignment to get the ball rolling.

Don’t let the curation process for small stories become more burdensome than the development of the stories, but keep the important things intact in the streamlined curation of small stories.

Properly curated small stories benefit by better fitting into the general coverage of the website, are much easier to edit and add synergy to the whole of the website.

Category: (01-13) January 2013   Tag:

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