Media Moves

How an online biz editor and a print biz editor work together

July 21, 2014

Posted by Chris Roush

Earlier this month, the Richmond Times-Dispatch launched a redesigned business news section on its website and appointed Jacob Geiger, who had previously run its Work It site, to oversee the page.

Geiger’s title is now online business editor, and he works with business editor Greg Gilligan on how the paper produces its business and financial news online as well as in print.

Geiger edits and distributes the paper’s business-focused e-mail newsletter, TD Business Daily. He also write stories and edit columns that appear on the Times-Dispatch’s online business page and is responsible for its layout, story selection and web traffic.

Gilligan had been the newspaper’s deputy business editor before becoming business editor in 2010. As a reporter, he covered the retail industry and wrote the “Biz Buzz” column. He has been at the newspaper since 1987. Gilligan has taught journalism classes at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University. He is past president of the Richmond chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a past national board member.

Geirger spoke by email and Gilligan spoke by telephone about their new arrangement. What follows is an edited transcript.

Jacob, what time do you come in every day, and what are your responsibilities?

I come in at 6 a.m. each day. My first job is putting together our e-mail newsletter. I select which stories we will feature, make sure headlines and photos are web-friendly, and update any stories that have been affected by overnight news. The newsletter goes out at 7 a.m.

Next I focus on making sure our main business web page looks good and has compelling content at the top of the page.

I look for breaking business stories — both locally and on the wires — and get them online during the morning. The goal is to ensure someone stopping by at 10 a.m. or noon will see new content to complement the stories that were in the morning paper and newsletter.

During this process I’m Tweeting, talking with our home page and breaking news managers about what business stories should be “out front” on the site and reviewing web analytics.

Later in the morning and in the afternoon I work on my reporting beat — startups, innovation and breweries. I also help out with our commercial real estate coverage.

Greg, what time do you come in every day, and what are your responsibilities?

We have four reporters and Jacob, who reports to me. He is the online business editor and started in that role at the beginning of the month.  When I became business editor in August 2010, before that point, there was a business editor and a deputy. When they made me business editor, they did not replace the dputy, which was me.

So I have to juggle a lot of responsibilities. What I do when I get up in the morning is get online right away and check my email, checking poublications. I come into the office for the 10 a.m. editor’s meeting and I am here until 9:30 or 10 at night editing copy.

We have four pages every day, but one of those pages is stocks. So we have three pages of content, although there might be ads.

We have a Sunday, six-page section, and some of that is Wall Street Journal content. And we have a Monday tabloid section, which is 20 to 24 pages. Most of that is all locally produced content. So I am editing all of that, pacing myself throughout the week.

I will switch over to editing daily stuff around 3 p.m. each day.

Jacob GeigerJacob, (right) how often do you talk with Greg every day, and what are you discussing?

Greg usually has sent me e-mails late at night while finishing the business section. He’ll let me know what the top stories are, what’s coming up the next day, etc.

I often see e-mails from him early in the morning, passing on news releases or news tips. We usually talk a few times during the day to compare notes, talk about what stories might get a lot of traffic online or to discuss a story I am writing. I will sometimes give him a quick status report when I leave the office.

Greg, how does Jacob help you do your job for print?

Before it was always a challenge to get things up on the web qwuickly. So now Jacob is able to put things on the web quicker for us and then help move the story along if he is writing it or moving it to one of the reporters.

One of his responsibilities is to look at commercial real estate. We have a reporter that looks at banking and real estate, but commercial real estate is so big and there is a lot more activity happening as we’re coming out of the recession. So Jacob is helping that reporter monitor that stuff and put it up on the web. And then the next day we will have a story in print. Or we may wait and put it in to print the following Monday.

Jacob is not doing line editing. He is monitoring things, moving things around on the website, looking for stories that are trending. He will move things around based on that. And he is looking for things also. He may come to me and say, I heard “XYZ Doughnut shop is getting ready to open a new location.”

Jacob, how do you quantify success with the online website?

The biggest metric is page views. But I also closely track the size of our e-mail list, and on the web I look at secondary metrics such as time on site and page views per visit.

Greg, how often does the print product look like the online product? Is that a goal?

Back when we first got into the online world, we were just dumping our content on there. Now we realize there are two audiences. They are fairly different. What may be the main big story on our business front may not be the main top story on our online page. Every day, you have to look at it.

I decide where the stories should be placed in the business section. But then I will send a note to Jacob saying, “I think this story will do great on the web.”

Jacob, how do you marshal the troops for a breaking story where it needs to appear first on the site?

If the news breaks before reporters have arrived, I marshal myself to write a short story — usually three to five paragraphs.

Then I’ll write through with background and additional details. If the story is big enough to merit major play in the newspaper, sometimes I will hand it off to the reporter on that beat for them to add more information and turn it into a polished story.

If the story falls on my beat I keep working it, updating the web as I go and then turning in something during the afternoon for the newspaper.

VPA WINNERSGreg, (right) how do you take that original reporting and turn it into a story for the print product?

We have not yet had what I would call the hand off yet. Because Jacob is a very quick and fast reporter. He has taken something that is happening during the day, put it on the web, five or six paragraphs, updated it later in the day as we have gotten more information, and then used it for the basis of the print version of the story.

Now the print lead might be different or have a more analytical lead.

We have several examples where he has taken tips or releases and then had them published. But we haven’t gotten to the point where he has started something and then handed it off to another reporter.

Jacob, what’s the biggest hurdle for getting content online and into the daily email in a timely fashion?

Sometimes it is waiting for enough information — or a critical confirmation — to feel comfortable hitting “publish.” Many sources are still used to dealing with print deadlines rather than the web, where the deadline ranges from “right now” to “five minutes ago.”

A potential hurdle is poor internal communication. That’s why Greg’s evening e-mails to me, which I read in the morning, are so important. And I always review the paper before sending my daily e-mail to make sure I don’t leave out a big story.

Greg, how do you make the print content relevant for those who get the email or who have read the first story online?

The online version isn’t going to be the full story, probably. We have the initial information, but with the print version, it’s going to be longer, more indepth and more analytical.

We’re going to talk to more people. The online version is just the facts.

Jacob or Greg, anything else I have missed?

Jacob: Editors should remember that it’s OK to play a story one way in print and a different way online. The audiences and interests are often different. The top story in print does not need to receive top billing on the website or newsletter, and the reverse is also true.

Greg: Richmond is a very vibrant business community. We have six or seven Fortune 500 companies headquartered here. People love reading about business because it impacts them and affects their pocketbooks. A lot of papers are taking that content and tucking it inside a section. In 2011, we brought that back out again and made it a separate standalone.

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