LEADERSHIP: In fall and spring terms, this desk is typically led by a news managing editor, assistant news managing editor and news editor. In summers, this desk is typically led by only a news managing editor. Fall/spring editing duties are divided as editors see fit. An often successful method is to have reporters generally assigned to a particular editor to build rapport and trust over time.
STAFF: In fall and spring terms, this desk typically has two senior reporters, three junior reporters and interns as available. In summers, this desk typically has two senior reporters, two junior reporters and interns as available.
PLANNING: This desk should hold one meeting a week to plan the next two to three weeks of coverage beyond breaking news events or day reporting. Senior reporters have higher expectations in terms of hours logged and work produced. Organizationally, you need a master budget/calendar system for upcoming coverage as well as meetings and activities of organizations that merit regular coverage. Those would include, but not be limited to, OU’s Board of Regents, Norman City Council, OU’s Faculty and Staff senates, Student Government Association, Undergraduate Student Congress, Graduate Student Senate and the various organizations under the umbrella of Student Life.
COMMUNICATION: Leaders of this desk should regularly check the main news email, monitor key newsmakers’ social media accounts and read competitors like The Norman Transcript, The Oklahoman and others. Communication should be a blend of in-person where possible and in Slack for broader transparency and understanding throughout the news editors and news desk. Often, that manifests in a Slack channel for news editors and another for the full news desk. It’s especially important for news editors to communicate and coordinate with editors of other desks when contemplating coverage that falls into gray areas of responsibility. It’s also imperative that news editors ensure their staffers or themselves are consistently communicating with visual editors about coverage needs and possibilities.
MINDSET: The most successful news desks are on their toes, actively seeking out news, rather than ones on their heels, waiting for news releases and press conferences. Additionally, editors should keep in mind the varied audiences – students, faculty, staff, alumni, city residents, etc. – our work can serve.
DAILY REPORTING: These are commonly called “day reporting” shifts in our newsroom, or “general assignment” in others. It’s a coverage that develops and needs to be fully covered in a single day, or some instances be handled immediately. Assignments like this include speeches, marches or meetings, in addition to news of prominent personnel moves or university or city policy changes. For day to day matters, consider these news reporting tips from The Frontier as well as these investigative reporting tips from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
FULL STORIES AND ENTERPRISE: These are pieces worked on for longer periods – multiple days, if not weeks or more – that add deeper value to our news report. Be they news or features, these are longer and more rigorous to produce in terms of sourcing, word count, general complexity, etc. They are must-reads that provide our audience deeper value on our core topics than our competitors often might, and they also are the types of pieces hiring editors want to see in candidates’ portfolios.
BUILDING BLOCKS FOR DESK ORIENTATION: