It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

2011 year in review

with 2 comments

If 2012 brings half the challenges 2011 had, I think I’ll be set.

My year was consistent when it came to journalism, spending my entire year at my first “real” job, working as a reporter and online coordinator for Heritage Media West, a news organization covering Washtenaw and western Wayne counties owned by Journal Register Co.

While slightly worried when I started that working for such a small newspaper — the weekly I wrote for, The Manchester Enterprise, has a total coverage area of about 10,000 people — I learned throughout the year weekly print publication

Downtown Manchester.

face different, yet equal challenges, as larger coverage areas.

Below is a month-by-month look at my year in review:

January 

I started at Heritage Media Jan. 10, covering the Village of Manchester and doing some online work; managing social media pages, posting stories, etc. I started off slow, still getting accustomed to using a whole new system and news flow. Working at a weekly product meant different deadlines, and a whole new content management system (going from Movable Type to Town News). I began getting accustomed to learning township and village government, and started covering both.

I started dabbling in iMovie, a program I hadn’t used before, to produce news videos. As the year went on, I began using it more and more.

February

The month was smooth-sailing, until the end when I received an email from my Manchester copy editor while at a meeting saying she was leaving the company. This left the Enterprise, a weekly print product of approximately 30 pages, with no editor, a job I was assigned to take over. Soon after, I assumed the role of copy editor and reporter, leaving many of my online duties behind.

We started using a new video client, Syndicaster, instead of VMix, a move that was a significant improvement. Not only did it allow for embedding of videos cleaner in story posts, it also allowed us to share content among other news orgs in the company.

March 

I spent the entire month copy editing and reporting for the Enterprise, something I was, frankly, scared to death of. I had not been in charge of a product like the Enterprise since being editor-in-chief of Central Michigan Life during the summer of 2009. Writing 7-9 stories a week, as while as coordinating user generated content from the community, copy editing pages and posting online content was how I spent my days during the month.

The challenge wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it would be, and I was still able to produce a daily newscast video for heritage.com.

July

An image that appeared in print and The Wire blog taken with my Incredible 2. The plate is a traditional dish served at the annual Manchester Chicken Broil.

Fast forward to the summer: I acquire a new tool designed to help my professional life: a Droid Incredible 2 smartphone. Among the many things I’ve been able to do with it include posting quick tweets on breaking news, take high-quality images for print, post to our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and track page analytics using SiteCatalyst. It’s been a blessing to have the device, even though it’s acted strange with some of my contacts recently.

September

My role at Heritage took a turn in September: a newsroom re-organization made me the full-time online coordinator for Heritage Media, decreasing my role as a reporter and charging me with a higher responsibility to the website. Since, I’ve spent more time focusing on analytics and bringing as much traffic as possible to the site, assisting reporters with making their stories pop on our site and curating content from our sister publications close to Detroit.

I also spent two days at a conference held by the Reynolds Journalism Institute in St. Louis, Mo. Going with two colleagues, we attended several sessions focusing on tablet use and development, as well as online strategy. You can read about my take-backs from the conference on the Heritage West Idealab blog, a page ran by my boss, Michelle Rogers.

October

Video content in our newsroom gets a refresher, with more instructions saying more in-depth, produced pieces are the way to go. I start curating more of our videos to other sister sites, and trying to build of off the directive to create higher-quality videos.

The group from Heritage West that attended the annual AP meeting in October in Mount Pleasant.

I also attended the Michigan Associated Press editor’s meeting in Mount Pleasant. This was a great opportunity to hear stories from the Grand Rapids Press on how they covered a mass shooting in town this past summer, more legal issues pertaining to journalists and how to best use social media in a newsroom.

Goals for next year

  • Learn more coding, starting with HTML and CSS.I asked for a basic book for Christmas, and I received

    This is the book I'm planning to crack open as soon as I hit publish.

    one of the coding books “For Dummies,” as its called. I plan on starting to use it tonight after posting this. I’ve used it lightly with embedding videos and maps on heritage.com, but I’d like to use it to create some different things, and maybe make some site changes here.

  • Continue learning about the mobile world. I’ve been using my phone for many uses, but I’d like to keep pushing it to the brink, using it to extract and capture as much info as possible. Eventually, I’d like to learn mobile to development as well.
  • Push the blogs on heritage.com more, and do more blogging myself. This is one element of my job I’ve really enjoyed doing, starting off with blogging for The Wire, the Manchester Enterprise’s blog. We’re encouraged to post to a staff blog at least once a week, and with our re-organization, all of us have access to each community’s blog. I’ve contributed to the Idealab blog, talking about technology and media, a site created by Brian Manzullo called JournU, a place for young journalists to share advice and stories, and my outdoors blog, where I touch on everything Michigan-relatd outdoors.

I’m always looking to improve, but these are just a few concepts I’d like to keep driving. Are there any other I should look into doing this year?

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Written by David Veselenak

January 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. David, your contributions this last year to Heritage-West have been invaluable. Your leadership, ability and willingness to help train co-workers in new technology for better storytelling have helped transform Heritage.com to better serve our readers and share the news on multiple platforms. We are lucky to have you and look forward to what’s next in the new year.

    Michelle Rogers

    January 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm

  2. Thanks for your insight and for moving this strategies and information to the foresight.


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