Thursday, April 13, 2006


Miami Herald editor's edict puts the web front and center

From Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler, sent to
the Herald staff via e-mail on April 12, 2006:

To the staff,

All of you who have stepped off an elevator into the Miami newsroom in recent
days cannot have missed the wall-mounted flat-screen monitor constantly
displaying and refreshing the site.

And if you've attended any of the morning or afternoon news meetings, you will
have heard an opening discussion about what's on that site, how many hits each
article has received, and what's coming to the site later in the day.

These may seem like the incremental markings of evolutionary change, mere
head-nods toward on-line as we continue to think of ourselves as newspaper
people first, foremost and -- perhaps for some -- always.

But that cannot continue to be. Today we change. Today, as in NOW.

Three years ago, on one of the anniversaries of our 100th year, we focused
time, thought and effort into remaking the newspaper as part of the New
Century Project. I have no doubt that it produced a more successful newspaper,
one that incorporates all of the great journalism on which we've prided
ourselves, presented in a more visually exciting and easier-to-use newspaper.
Imitators are legion.

But time marches on and constantly improving the newspaper isn't going to
guarantee success, either in journalism or in the marketplace.

I have two messages to deliver today.

First, my goal is to remain as relevant, as important and as influential to
this community in the future as we have been in the past -- and to do it
through world-class journalism. It's a goal we all share.

Second, we will make delivering that journalism on and our
other media platforms just as high a priority as delivering it in The Miami
Herald. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Just as high.

We are beyond being satisfied with incremental change and giving polite head
nods toward other media platforms. We are going to execute fundamental
restructuring to support that pledge. Every job in the newsroom -- EVERY JOB
-- is going to be redefined to include a web responsibility and, if
appropriate, radio. For news gatherers, this means posting everything we can
as soon as we can. It means using the web site to its fullest potential for
text, audio and video. We'll come to appreciate that is not an
appendage of the newsroom; it's a fundamental product of the newsroom.

No more will some people be strictly newspaper staff and others will be
strictly on-line or multi-media staff. If you produce news, you'll be
expected to produce it as effectively for the electronic reader or listener as
you would for the newspaper reader. If you edit or design for the newspaper,
you'll learn to edit and design for the web site.

We'll be creating and posting several new jobs that will be necessary to
deliver on this mission. We don't have the luxury of waiting for new
resources to do this, so we may need to find the wherewithal by dropping some
of the less-important things we do now. Almost certainly we'll be changing the
typical work schedule so we can deliver the news when our audience wants to
get it. Of course we'll invest in training to help everyone succeed in new

The details will be worked out over the next few weeks and I invite everyone
with ideas to be involved.

Let me stress that we aren't going to milk The Miami Herald to do this. This
newspaper is what brought us here and it will remain very successful for many
years. There is something special and unique about journalism on the printed
page and we won't neglect that going forward. But we didn't fall in love with
journalism because of ink and paper. We fell in love with it because it had
the power to change lives for the better -- and we can do that on paper, on
the web and over the airwaves with equal devotion.

The potential for having even greater impact than we have now is enormous.
Although all of us are aware of the challenges we face in keeping newspaper
readers, a few facts about

*In January 2004, our web site captured 100,000 unique local visitors. Last
month, just 14 months later, it hosted 250,000 unique local visitors. In
fact, between February and March of this year, our on-line traffic grew by 22
percent. Remember, of course, that only on the web site can we reach readers
without regard to geographic boundaries, something we do very well and can do
even better.

*Across the nation, newspaper web sites increased the share of 18-24 year old
readers by 9 percent, and 25-34 year olds by 14 percent.

*We're making money. In the first quarter of this year, our websites exceeded
even optimistic revenue estimates by $2.2 million.

When I entered this business 35 years ago, the way things were done in the
newsroom wouldn't have been unfamiliar to someone doing my job nearly 100
years before. I scarcely can imagine what the newsroom will look like 35
years from now in terms of how we deliver our journalism.

What's exciting is that we are in the position today of shaping that future.
What we do will largely determine how successful The Miami Herald will be in
serving generations to come. As I said, that's exciting -- and daunting.

This much is certain: We won't be successful by standing still and lamenting
what used to be. Three years ago this September we launched the New Century
Project. Now we need to begin work on the next century and I need each of
you to come along.

About Tom Fiedler:

Tom Fiedler is the executive editor of the Miami Herald, overseeing a staff of
nearly 400 journalists at one of the nation.s most respected newspapers. Over a
career spanning nearly three decades at The Herald, he has held a variety of
assignments including editor of the editorial pages, political editor and
columnist, White House correspondent and war correspondent during the Persian
Gulf War. He is perhaps best known for reporting on numerous political
campaigns, including every presidential contest between 1972 and 1996, and for
authoring the Florida Institute of Government.s Almanac of Florida Politics.
In 1988, he was awarded the Bronze by the Society of Professional Journalists,
its highest honor, for his coverage of candidate Gary Hart.s presidential
campaign. He also shared a 1991 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the political
influence of an extremist group.


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