Newsroom experts

Top 5 risks that paid off for GateHouse Media’s Editor of the Year

When we think of some of our industry’s top leaders, we think of visionaries who aren’t afraid to take risks. Paul Pronovost of The Cape Cod Times was recently named GateHouse Media’s 2015 Editor of the Year for his digital savvy, creativity and focus on driving enterprise reporting – and for his calculated risks that paid off.

Pronovost tells us about the Cape Cod Times’ Top 5 risks from 2015, and why they were worth it:

1.       Creating new digital products. We transformed CapeCodOnline, our web brand, into a leisure and lifestyle site. The Cape and Islands are internationally known resort communities, yet no single digital source nailed the destination market. So we focused our newspaper.com on CapeCodTimes.com and essentially created a new product with CapeCodOnline. We were taking a risk by disrupting the status quo of our web lineup but we felt it was important to own this niche.

2.       Creating new print products. Another new product that grew from an existing one and also caters to the tourism market. CapeWeek is the Cape Cod Times’ highly popular, weekly entertainment tab. We took that concept and created CapeWeek Summer, a free, stand-alone publication that has everything you would find in CapeWeek, and adds everything you would need for the vacation planning: a weather map, tide chart, top 10 lists and more. The risks were if CapeWeek Summer eroded newspaper sales or if the product didn’t sell to advertisers and wasn’t popular with readers. It’s been very successful.

3.       Don’t be afraid of the heat. We devoted nearly full-time resources for several months to covering a controversy surrounding a local school superintendent who was accused of bullying his way into a student’s home to confirm her residency. The super was popular with many in the community and he hired a PR firm to attack our credibility. Ultimately he was taken to criminal court for the incident and his defense attorney subpoenaed our reporter in an effort to take her off the story and cast doubt on her work. We remained steadfast and stuck to the core principles of good journalism: the pursuit of the truth. The superintendent is no longer employed.

4.       Don’t be afraid to have fun. This can be serious business, and sometimes the lighter side of the news can seem frivolous. However, we have found that readers respond when they know you are having fun, whether it’s the tone of social media or telling stories in offbeat ways like humorous videos and light-hearted Snapchats. Sounds obvious, but it can be a leap of faith.

5.       Keeping a focus on high-quality reporting. There are a million good reasons every day to turn in average work – the depth and breadth of what is expected of journalists today can be overwhelming. And some ask: where is there room for good journalism? The truth is, it’s simply a matter of focus. If you want to produce excellent work, you must be committed to it. And that means giving editors and reporters the time to make it happen, spending the money on travel and training, sacrificing on the short-term in order to have a bigger payoff in the long-term. And it also means caring about every detail: stories, sidebars, graphics, digital elements, photos, videos, design.

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