Media Moves

Choosing stories reflects how paper's use resources

April 26, 2008

Nancy Barnes, the editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writes for Sunday’s paper about how the newspaper picks the stories that it chooses to have its reporters dig into, and uses a recent real estate series as an example.

Star TribuneBarnes writes, “It is also reflected in how we choose to use our resources. Last week, for example, we ran a three-part series on what can only be called the housing nightmare in Wright County. This reflected months of work on the part of the newsroom. This project began with a story reporter Chris Serres broke about massive mortgage fraud in New Prague, which prompted lots of phone calls from homeowners and real-estate agents suggesting the housing problems were particularly severe in the northern part of the metro area.

“Early on in the life of this story, our business news department decided it wanted to do more than just a quick-hit story. It spent months using database research to track down real-estate transactions and foreclosures. ‘But the key was good, old-fashioned reporting,’ said business editor Eric Wieffering. ‘Chris made countless trips out there to track down owners and developers, while Jim Buchta [our real-estate writer] reached out to his network of agents and builders.’ Others, including editor Karen Lundegaard, photographer Glen Stubbe and computer-assisted reporting editor Glenn Howatt, contributed significant time and energy.

“‘In the end, I think the story captured the complex forces that drove real-estate mania in many parts of the country. It began with real demand, and that created genuine opportunity. But, after a while, demand became irrelevant. Perverse incentives — cheap money, lax lending terms and no regulatory oversight — distorted reality,’ said Wieffering.

“How did our readers respond? We’ve gotten lots of written comments from our print readers. The Web also allows us to capture, specifically, how many clicked on the story and read it. Day one, alone, received 295,000 page views. When we add in all the page views from the other parts of the project and accompanying slide shows, the total project got about 675,000 page views. Terry Sauer, one of our senior editors for online, said he couldn’t remember a project with that kind of readership.”

Read more here.

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