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Tech Blog – Mark Stencel April 12, 2011

Posted by acusumano in : Assignments , trackback

Mark Stencel, managing editor for digital news at NPR, is a pioneer of the cross-platform news experience. NPR is one of the largest, most consumed news organizations in North America but the bulk of that is because of radio listeners, not an online audience. NPR struggles to get people on to its website.

One tidbit that I thought was interesting was that Stencel stressed the long-term traffic of arts pieces. A feature like Moby’s songwriting process will not have as big a drop-off in page views as, say, a news piece. Stencel’s attitude towards stories, therefore, is “What part of this story are readers/listeners coming to NPR for?”–developing a story tailored to what the audience is looking for when the reality is they probably already know the news.

NPR is more about analysis–the how and the why rather than rehashing the who and the what. He quotes co-worker Matt Thompson, “Don’t cover the events, cover the implications.”

When Stencel worked for The Washington Post, he was part of a team that designed a way for the paper’s then-new website to encourage interaction with live chats with reporters and newsworthy individuals. Then those transcripts would serve as suitable stories on their own. But now, interaction is a more dynamic process thanks to social media.

Stencel praised Andy Carvin for his innovative, Twitter-based coverage of the Libyan conflict, saying that it will change the way journalists cover breaking stories. (Professor Klein deemed Carvin “the most talked about” journalist in the current landscape.)

One of the cooler projects Stencel showed us was the way NPR covered last year’s elections. They analyzed Twitter accounts, Facebook posts and more to find out how many times candidates used certain “buzzwords.” It was an interesting experiment and really brought home the fact that many of these candidates’ social media use is pretty cookie cutter.

News happens quickly. Our job is to cover it quickly.

Sometimes, news moves too fast. Stencel pointed to the inaccurate NPR report that Rep. Giffords (D-AZ) was killed in a January shooting, which in turn led to some other news organizations reporting the story (some crediting NPR and some “confirming” it on their own). NPR apologized and corrected the story immediately, earning goodwill from readers who otherwise might have lost their trust in NPR.

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