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Burlington Times-News online editor Alex Kreitman speaks to students about importance of technology, staying local

February 9, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

Feb. 9, 2009

At a time when print journalism is struggling with declining readership and decreased revenue, Alex Kreitman of the Burlington (N.C.) Times-News may know just what it takes to keep newspapers relevant.

Kreitman, online editor for the Times-News, spoke to a class of communications students on Feb. 9 at his alma mater, Elon University in Elon, N.C.

Alex Kreitman graduated from Elon University in 2006 and now works as the online editor at the Times-News.

Alex Kreitman graduated from Elon University in 2006 and now works as the online editor at the Times-News.

“You guys have the biggest advantage [because of] the way you have been brought up with technology,” he told the students. “You know a lot more about this stuff and can get it on the Web faster.”

Kreitman credits the use of technology as one of the most important practices in modern journalism. Of the six reporters employed by the Times-News, Kreitman said that all know how to use a video camera and four or five have their own blogs.

Reporting for the Internet

The reporters are also expected to post stories almost as soon as they happen. Using mobile phones and laptops, these tech-savvy journalists post a headline and brief description of an event online, then continue to update the story as more information becomes available. These updates are also e-mailed to approximately 4,500 readers who subscribe to the Times-News listserv.

“You get a play-by-play by [reading] it online,” said Kreitman.

Even non-breaking news is posted online as early as possible.

“If a story is running in tomorrow’s paper, we have it up by 5 p.m. the day before,” said Kreitman. “Breaking stories are up a lot sooner.”

Kreitman notes that feature and human-interest stories are usually the least-read stories on newspaper’s Web sites. To fill that void, the Times-News staff has had to create other features to maintain online readership and increase the Web site’s page views.

“Our best reporters now are different than our best reporters a few years ago,” he said. “Now, the best reporters are the most innovative reporters.”

Recent popular features include a weekly newscast, contests (including sports brackets and photo contests), public records of local crime, a myth-busting feature called “We Checked it Out” and the opportunity for readers to post comments on stories.

Merging broadcast and print

 Reporters also try to record and post video whenever possible, and as the online editor, Kreitman encourages reporters to record their own voice-overs and narrations to accompany videos.

Following the Times-News’ lead, the newspaper’s parent company, Freedom Communications, encouraged all of it’s newspapers to use more video. Freedom, which owns multiple newspapers and television channels across the country, organized a summit with the newspaper’s editors and the television editors in order to teach the newspapers how to effectively shoot and edit video.

“In other markets and at a lot of other newspapers in our company, newspapers are now working with TV stations so they’re getting video from TV stations and using that on their site,” said Kreitman.

However, because of Burlington’s relatively isolated geographic location, the Times-News has yet to form a similar a relationship with any local television station. Still, Kreitman acknowledges that the two forms of media rely heavily on one another.

“In our area here, we compete more with the TV stations for breaking news than we ever did before,” he said. “[TV stations] constantly look at our Web site and we constantly look at theirs to make sure we’re not missing anything … In the way that we’re molding our video to be like broadcast, broadcast is molding their storytelling to be more like print on the Web.”

Hyperlocal reporting

Kreitman also emphasized the importance of local reporting. He said that the Times-News frequently uses Associated Press stories on national issues such as the election or inauguration, opting instead to dedicate their own resources to extensive coverage of local issues. Their lead stories are often local stories, or localized versions of national stories, and these stories are usually receive the most online comments and feedback.

Hyperlocal is the only way newspapers are going to survive,” he said. “Reason being is that the bigger papers – the Associated Press and stuff like that – they don’t know what’s going on in Burlington …. But the people in Burlington want to know what’s going on in Burlington, of course.”

Kreitman’s blog can be viewed here. 

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One comment

  1. It’s working now! Great start on the multimedia reporting. You understood that you needed to capture a great SEO headline, a still photo, a video clip and some solid reporting with significant details and direct quotes. Nicely done. There’s always room for improvement, and there are things you can do to make this a better portfolio piece.

    You need to use subheds in a piece this long – place small headlines in the body typeface but boldface in the content here and there to help give your audience more points of entry and to maintain their interest in your storytelling. Make sure these subheds include specific details and a subject and verb – get some action into them.

    Keep the writing ACTIVE. Write “Kreitman credits the use of technology…” – not Kreitman credited – use present tense as often as possible without lying to the audience or throwing the tone off.

    NEVER use the zoom on the Flip camera. It makes the picture fuzzy. You will only have a sharp picture with the Flip if you DO NOT zoom in. Just get to an assignment early and get a good position close to the front – to the action.

    The entire last paragraph is “gush” – in reporting, we do not tie everything up with a neat little bow of happiness at the end – no opinion. If Dean Parsons had been in the room and he had said that afterward, you could quote him at the end saying that, but you never-ever do it in your “reporter’s voice.” You have captured some good content here, some good specific details. A reporter captures more direct quotes and more storytelling detail.

    I really like the effort you put into the reporting on this piece – you definitely have the right feel for that. Keep it up!



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