This was the pic on our front page today. Clearly the boys were busy discussing the upcoming US vs Russia Nuclear War Semi-Final. I think the paper is getting better. It is getting some personality, a sense of humour and a better mix of hard news, human interest and entertainment. Our headlines are improving, but still need work. I believe that headlines, captions, strapheads and the like define a paper’s personality and need to be absolutely nailed if you are going to become more than a fish and chip wrapper …
Perhaps, most significantly, we are living up to – perhaps even exceeding – our promise to produce great multimedia to accompany our stories. Stuff on the weather, the Lion King, a grieving mum as well as podcasts, like the one by Simnikiwe Xabanisa, the Sunday Times’ great rugby writer, are hitting the spot.
Much excitement at The Times this morning as copies of our newspaper were distributed to all. It was our first of four dummy run editions to be printed and it was great to hold something real in our hands. The splash was another exclusive, though I thought some of the dailies did well on their front pages. What a stunning picture from Cannes. Did she turn away as he moved in for the kiss? Why? Love it.
Our budget has grown from R100 million (Maverick last week) to R250 million (Anton Harber writing in Business Day this week). I knew it was insensitive of me to cash in my share options at this delicate time, but I had no idea they had matured so nicely . Well, the “insiders” who are giving out these astronomical numbers are obviously better informed than my insiders who tell me that everything is running rather smoothly within the original budget which is WAY less than both the above figures. But then again, what would my insiders know? They are merely managing the budget, making all the staffing and equipment decisions and signing the print contracts …
This was our shot at this morning’s paper. It made deadline and was quite a corker! We didn’t lead with the weather like everyone else, although we had a p1 pick and a xref to two pages inside. The bottom line: We had an exclusive splash. Yay!!
I’m sitting here in a deserted newsroom with the third “edition” of the paper. Each front page has been different, each lead story a good splash and there is a big surprise factor in the different look each paper has. We are ironing our the last problems with processes and pictures as the launch day looms ever larger.
This is the first post on my new blog which is part of The Times blogging platform. I have joined David Bullard and Lesley Mofokeng in the Times stable and its great to be home and not wondering about in the ethernet. Thanks Colin.
The redoubtable Lesley Mofokeng, entertainment reporter extraordinaire at the Sunday Times has started a blog on the Times platfrom. It will follow his life as Mr Entertainment and, of late, as a contestant in the Strictly Come Dancing competition. He is the second blogger on our platform following the somewhat hurried launch of the Bullog.
We have been on a steep learning curve since Wednesday last week when we started working to our regular schedule. Here are some issues:
Our final dummy has a lot of added value concepts that require focus and hard work to find, write, edit and lay out. The streamlining of scheduling and the features production process has been the focus of a lot of energy and is now more or less on track.
The templates for our features section were not ready and held us back substantially on our Thursday night deadline. The templates should make design easier on regular pages, but the fact that they weren’t ready meant they had to be designed while subs waited for them to do the actual pages. Tick tock.
Picture scanning was slow. A bureaucratic snafu of some kind as the scanning department was not ready for our first dummy production run for Friday’s paper and things churned very slowly. They are probably wondering why they have to expend all this energy on something that is not printing yet when they have ‘real’ newspapers to produce.
Multimedia production was happening on big stories and the pods were working together – although there were occassional clashes over who gets priority at interviews, for example – so I’m expecting that the web site is going to rock with video and podcasts.
All in all, there was quite a bit of first night stuff going on. Pages not following proofing processes, that sort of thing. We had a great meeting on Friday to go through each and every problem and to identify solutions. Fortunately, the enthusiasm and solution-orientation of the team has meant that we are now sailing along relatively smoothly.