Shifting the focus to others in 2017

If I could change one thing about myself in 2017, it’s my focus.

From day to day, I have been primarily focused on advancing my own goals as an editor and journalist. In 2017, that’s coming to an end.

I spent a week earlier this year at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies discussing the importance of building up others. The idea of developing your staff and putting the goals of your staff ahead of yourself, per the media professionals and faculty on hand, was the primary catalyst for becoming a strong newsroom leader.

At Poynter, it was apparent to me that staff development had been something that I had paid very little attention to as I focused on video, innovation and different storytelling methods. That’s all good and dandy, but it doesn’t help build cohesion and it doesn’t make people stretch. That’s what I’m interested in going forward. The fruits of that labor, I hope, will mean more dynamic projects and more personal satisfaction from everyone in my newsroom.

What will be key to fulfilling this mission is getting to understand everyone’s goals. I’ve been cheating by working on my resolutions since early December, gathering as much information as possible on the hopes and dreams of my colleagues with the explicit understanding of helping them achieve their ambitions. I can’t think of anything more important right now than helping them get to where they want to be because our goals in the industry are ultimately aligned.

So, in 2017, my focus will shift to others and by the end of the year, I hope, those closest to me in the newsroom will have advanced or realized some of their goals.

Plenty to learn, cover one year after Freddie Gray

I’m in Baltimore this morning getting prepared for the National Association of Black Journalist’s Region 1 conference here, “One Year After Freddie Gray: Navigating Social Justice in Journalism.”

There has been an incredible effort by NABJ Region 1 director Johann Calhoun and conference chair Nicki Mayo to put on a fantastic program. And the conference team has put out all the stops for folks coming to town. There’s a reception tonight at Nancy by SNAC. The town hall tomorrow is packed with civic leaders like Baltimore Police Chief Kevin Davis, Baltimore NAACP chapter president Tessa Hill Aston and activist DeRay Mckesson. And we have great programs for everyone to enjoy, including both social media and Google tools workshops that’ll certainly offer actionable skills in addition to our great panels.

All of this, of course, comes one year after the death of Freddie Gray and the turmoil in Baltimore following massive protests and civil unrest. Charm City has a new presumptive mayor in Catherine Pugh and there has been much ado about reconciliation in the community. That’s what we’re hoping to explore and the role journalists play when tragic events like this occur.

For journalists in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Virginia, there’s still time to register and get here for Saturday’s full slate and cover this story. Find out more here: nabjbmore16.com.

Resolutions for 2016

happynewyear2016

Here we are getting ready to commence with 2016 and all I can think about is what a year 2015 was.

At the end of 2014, I went from a digital only outlet at Boston.com to FOX25 where I was the manager of web content. It was a bizarre experience for someone like myself who has always been tied to a newspaper. To be bound by the restrictions of the TV newsgathering process was actually an incredible learning experience. I was able to drive digital strategy and performance while gaining the perspective of a TV station’s digital road map. I was honored to help boost FOX25 during a period of transition as the new year kicked in.

I was honored to be a part of the team to accept the APME/ASNE Innovator of the Year award for the Boston Herald.
I was honored to be a part of the team to accept the APME/ASNE Innovator of the Year award for the Boston Herald.

Here I am now at the Boston Herald, serving as its new deputy managing editor for news and multimedia, a new position for the Herald and another opportunity for me to lead and strategize for the future. That’s something I don’t take lightly. There’s an incredible urgency to do well. The beauty of the Herald is that there is buy-in from the staff to tweak, change and re-direct, all with the aim of doing the best job possible. As my colleague Joe Dwinell likes to say, the great thing about the Herald is that things move fast. That’s what has taken my focus and energy for the second half of 2015.

Now, as the hours draw down for this year, I’m reflecting on what we’ve been able to accomplish. I’m sizing up all the things we did well, what we did marginally well and where we failed, the last of which is most important to me and how I will judge our efforts. In that sense, I’m looking at how I’ve spent my time, our efficiency and our hopes for the future. That’s what I’m consumed by.

Jalil
Jalil

At the same time, I have had an extraordinary year with my family. My only resolution from 2015 was to spend more time with family members, which I’m proud to say I was able to accomplish after using all of my allotted vacation time. I’ve watched Jalil grow from an infant to a toddler. His hair is as wild as ever and his curiosity inspires me. I’m in love watching him grow up. Claudia is as beautiful as ever and has become a gracious mother. I can’t thank her enough for her patience as I transitioned from one job to the next. And for all of my family back in San Francisco, I was able to re-connect at my grandmother’s 90th birthday anniversary. But I know I need to do more on both fronts.

My family in San Francisco.
My family in San Francisco.

In 2016, I want to maintain the momentum I’ve enjoyed at work and at home. That will take a continued effort to create balance. But I have specific goals as well, some of which fall into the form of “traditional” resolutions:

Claudia
Claudia
  1. As I said on the last episode of NewsFeed (my show on Boston Herald Radio, for those that don’t know) this year, I want to read to Jalil every night. He’s at an age right now where he needs to hear as many words as possible. And I want to instill in him the joy that comes from reading that his mother and I share.
  2. I also want to save at least 15 percent of my salary. I’ve already got Jalil’s college fund going and the house fund is there, but I’m thinking about retirement now as well. There’s a lot I need to be prudent about to make that happen. So part of this resolution is to spend less frivolously with the hope that I’ll maintain my benchmarks for the end of the year.
  3. And I want to be better at calling my family back home. They need to hear from Jalil and I a lot more than they do. I admit to being terrible about making calls during holidays and special occasions. So part of that is setting out time each week just for phone calls.

Of course, this doesn’t take away from the fact that I want to work out more, become a better manager at work, give more of my time to service organizations, read as much as possible and improve on myself as a man. But I think those goals are good for every year. In 2016, I’m trying to start habits that will benefit my family and I for the rest of our lives. I can’t think of another way to approach resolutions right now.

I’m thankful for 2015 and look forward to what’s next. My plan is in place. What’s yours?

Now appearing on Herald Radio

On Monday, I will be debuting as co-host of a new show on Boston Herald Radio called “NewsFeed.”

Have you ever wanted to know how a newspaper approaches its newsgathering process? How the front page of a newspaper comes together? What decisions go into playing up certain stories over others? That’s part of the conversation we will have on “NewsFeed,” but through the lense of the Boston Herald. Joe Dwinell and I will be attempting to push the conversation forward on the news of the day while keeping this in mind.

It’s my hope that both new and faithful readers of the Herald as well as listeners of Herald Radio will get an inside look at how we operate and an opportunity to engage with us in a more direct way.

We’ll be broadcasting “NewsFeed” 1-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Listeners can call in at 617-619-6400. Or text us at 617-286-5633.

For those unaccustomed to how I get down, I expect this to be an interactive experience. So whether you call us or text us, or just hit me up on Twitter, we’ll be as responsive as possible.

I’m joining the Boston Herald

I’ll be joining the Boston Herald on Monday June 8 as the deputy managing editor for news and multimedia. The announcement was in Thursday’s copy of the Herald. Here’s the text from the article:

Zuri Berry has been named as the Herald’s deputy managing editor for news and multimedia, it was announced today.

Berry comes to the paper from WFXT FOX25, where he served as manager of Web content, supervising digital staff on news projects.

Previously, he worked at the Boston Globe’s Boston.com as a content producer and writer, spearheading sports coverage.

A California State University, Chico graduate in journalism, Berry launched the social media efforts of a local daily newspaper, The Union.

“Zuri has built a career in steering news organizations through the challenges of new media platforms to extend their reach and reader engagement,” said Herald Editor-in-Chief Joe Sciacca.

“Smart, energized and committed to journalism, he has a strong appreciation for the collaboration needed to make a multimedia newsroom work,” Sciacca said.

In his newsroom leadership role, Berry will focus on expanding and enhancing the Herald’s integrated print and Web reporting initiatives, radio and video.

“I’m excited about helping the Herald strengthen its watchdog journalism through multimedia and building up its social media strategy,” said Berry, who starts in his new position on Monday.

“With strong platforms like radio to offer, it’s my hope to leverage the Herald’s brand to its maximum potential. This couldn’t be a better time to join, and I’m ready to dig in.”

ESPN’s redesign targets 5 important keys for a successful digital news enterprise

I have always been enamored with website redesigns. I’ve gone through a few myself and I’ve never walked away without feeling a little sore about something.

The issues tend to come at you sideways in a redesign launch. Most issues are only revealed after the publish button has been pressed. Adding to the difficulties of a redesign launch is often the numerous stakeholders. Even at the smallest of companies, they can (and sometimes do) veer a project off its intended path. I saw this happen with Boston.com when it relaunched in April 2014. (They’ve rebounded nicely in the past year.) So there are many issues to combat just to get off the ground, let alone launch. And that’s all before readers rip the final product to shreds. Because, you know, the Internet. I’m pleasantly surprised to see there have been few issues with the redesign of ESPN.com today. The sports behemoth has more news, info and commentary than any other website imaginable (and readers, too, with a self reported 91 million users in January), and yet it somehow figured out the shadowy pathway to handle this truly immense project with an unknown number of people likely shepherding it through today’s unveiling. Hats off to their digital team.

I think what is reflected in this redesign, which deserves some outside studying, is that despite competing interests for a wide range of verticals and subsections, there are some basic tenets that digital organizations are going to focus on no matter what. Tenets that I believe are key to any successful news operation today, regardless of size or scope. Here are five:

1. Mobile first — ESPN says 61 percent of their visitors came from a mobile device. This is in line with the overall trend for digital news enterprises. More and more readers are accessing content via their mobile devices while declines are being recorded for “desktop” only users. So it’s no surprise that ESPN focused on making a responsive website. (There appears to be three tiers, one for the full fledged site, another for the middling tablet and the last for mobile devices).

2. Real-time updates — Again, ESPN has more daily content it can possibly ever use being pumped into the Bristol brain trust. I’m sure, like it is for most major websites, the fight to get on the homepage is intense. What we’ve seen is that news organizations that have developed a stream — like Boston.com, for example — are able to quickly display new content on a site’s homepage without ever having to involve a curator of the homepage’s content. Readers will see more content this way, with links to articles, tweets from writers, videos, etc.

3. User experience — No website can ever underestimate the user experience. There’s obviously been a lot of thought put into this particular redesign, the flow of the site and its navigation. I’m sure with the changes made this will also be the top source of ESPN’s complaints. Designers can remark better than I on the pluses and flaws they see. But for the purposes of this post, it is extremely important to take care and respect the sensibilities of your readership. Digital savvy readers expect beautiful, modern and easy to read websites. Oftentimes that’s tough to do given all of the competing priorities. I would say that ESPN has successfully adhered to this tenet.

4. Video — The redesign’s emphasis on video smacks you in the face. More and more publishers are making the costly investment in video production, hoping to bank on increased ad spending on mobile video. With its vast array of digital properties, ESPN was already in a position to take advantage of the two concurrent trends at play here, and this redesign represents another step toward that.

5. Personalization — For ESPN, that means surfacing content on its users’ favorite sports teams. Translated for smaller news organizations, that means news your readers can use from their community. It’s certainly easier to address the personalization problem with sports and much harder for any general news organization, both to find and target content for fragmented audiences. The easiest way you already see this being done is with localized weather forecasts based on the location of your IP address. There’s certainly opportunity for innovation here.

I certainly expect ESPN to make some tweaks and changes in the days and weeks to come. Hopefully, they won’t take six years for another redesign. But I’m almost positive they will adhere to these five points of emphasis because that’s where the trends are heading. All news orgs would be wise to acknowledge as much in their next redesign.

How different is it editing a TV news site?

The last year has been a journey for me, transitioning from a digital producer role at The Boston Globe’s Boston.com to editing a TV news website as the manager of web content.

Over the course of this year, I’ve had the great privilege to see and contribute to the inner workings of a very different brand of journalism and contemplate how different the broadcast ilk of my trade approach their digital properties vs. the print folks. Without factoring in the size of my station’s operation as it relates to other TV markets, there are some striking differences that deserve mentioning.

1. Dependent on Facebook — Not just Facebook, but really all social media. Unlike newspapers, which are often the bedrocks of the communities they reside in for news, the finicky nature of television viewers does not engender the type of repeat visitors and brand loyalty online that I’ve previously experienced. There is always a FOX, CBS, ABC and NBC to turn to when watching TV. In Boston, you can add in a regional news network (NECN) as well. Those options are always available to viewers. And when it comes time to seek out the news online, either to catch up on reading or for just a breakdown of any particular news event, TV audiences continue their perfidious behavior, playing around until they find their fill. So instead of a sort of dependence on the other guy to screw up, or for the local newspaper to possibly fail to fill the needs of its online readers, there is a heightened focus on audience development through social media. If one TV station can align itself with a concentrated brand awareness campaign and pay vigorous attention to best practices on key social media platforms (read: Facebook), that station’s site is more likely attract new and repeat readers, and in turn more viewers of its broadcast. (And make no mistake about it, Facebook is where this war is being waged.) I’ve come to see more clearly how all TV news sites have developed these come-from-behind strategies based on leveraging Facebook for readers. Obviously some stations have better strategies than others. But what’s been interesting for me is comparing how much more important Facebook is to TV than newspapers, especially considering all of the other aspects that go into a complete content strategy. Gone are the conversations about tremendous story angles to pursue and how to produce them online, replaced by the boilerplate, “this will do well on Facebook.” Unfortunately, that is the end of the conversation for some.

2. Whose byline is this? — As a digital editor, my job is to maintain the integrity and freshness of the site and our station’s mobile apps, then market our content aggressively on social media. That also means being first on breaking news and weather (a core tenet of our station). That’s the simple part. But what initially vexed me when I took on this job was the station’s reporting process. There is a dependence on the assignment desk for details, sources and contacts with public safety agencies that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. (Producers, to my surprise, spend a considerable amount of their time sketching out each show.) This is nothing like what you may experience at a newspaper or magazine and nor is it like the experiences others face at smaller stations from what I’m told. But it’s indicative of a vastly different process. For the digital producers on our site, the responsibility to write, self-edit, edit, and evangelize content is paramount. However, all of the details that make up their stories — the ones you see online at any given moment — are passed along from our assignment desk. Our digital team is fashioned more like the old re-write desk of newspaper lore. It’s also very similar to when our TV reporters file their stories. Their scripts are written for the broadcast, oftentimes in broadcast speak. Our digital producers edit those stories to align them with a more conventional online writing style (a custom mix of AP and our own). In contrast, in previous posts at newspapers I edited fully formed stories for online publication while working on my own stories on the side. So who’s doing the reporting? The station, of course. Pay no attention to the byline.

3. Mobile app wars — Again, the name of the game is audience development. If you don’t know where your audience is, you’re not paying attention. ComScore, one of the leading marketing and analytics companies in the country, pegged app use at 52 percent in December 2014. That’s not just consuming news. That’s 52 percent of all time users spend online. Strategically speaking, TV stations pay a good portion of their time considering their mobile apps with good reason, tweaking and toying with their mobile offerings in order to better serve their readers. That’s just not the case for print publishers, who have what I would consider a lackadaisical approach to their mobile apps. Pay attention to any ABC owned station and you’ll see very quickly how central the app is to the entire news organization, with push alerts coming at all times of the day. In Boston, you’re beginning to see every TV outlet move in this direction with tremendous benefits in page views and repeat visitors. The push/text alert is more important than ever. Digital staffers for newspapers sites are still catching up to this aggressive momentum.

Of course, there are many other obvious differences that speak to the online editing process in going from a newspaper to TV station. But in my journey, these few are considerably more important because of the success or failure they represent for any digital news operation. They are, what I would consider, translatable. A keen eye on audience development and editing will always be important and I’m glad it is a heightened focus in my current medium.

Happy New Year! Resolution(s) for 2015

Happy New Year’s friends, family, and strangers on the internet. May peace and blessings find you in 2015.

I fear, much like I did at the start of 2014, that I may not be able to exceed the level of joy I experienced in the coming year. With the birth of my son, Jalil, and the new job at WFXT FOX 25 News, 2014 was a year of dramatic change for the Berrys.

And with the changes I’ve experienced, both of which have made wholesale differences in my personal and professional life, I see a greater shift in my New Year’s resolutions, which I proudly post in this space each year.

(To the pessimist, I say, endear yourselves to those that are goal-oriented and who engage in the New Year’s resolutions ritual. They are, in my view, openly optimistic about self-betterment, which characterizes strong moral fiber. Ernest Hemingway wrote: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”)

It’s not that I don’t want to continue to write for myself. (I hate the fact that I haven’t written on this site since Dec. 7, Jalil’s birthday.) Or that I don’t want to work out. I’m always striving to be more consistent – as a writer, editor, and online manager – and improve upon myself each day. That’s my obligation to the myself and those that look up to me. But I see in these changes an opportunity to focus on others. However important it may be to put focus on myself, in terms of self-betterment, Jalil’s presence demands that my priorities change, even if just slightly.

So this may sound lame or corny even, but it actually reflects how I feel: In 2015, I want to focus more on my family.

With Jalil and Claudia, the Berrys now have a whole team on the east coast. I want to make sure as much as possible our family is strong and stable. For me, that means being both a provider and a steward. This year, with this new role as a father, I see nothing as more important. So while I resolve myself to focus on my writing, my personal health, and professional development each year, this year I will add yet another important and intangible goal, one I believe will also be among my New Year’s resolutions for the rest of my life.

So, what’s your New Year’s resolutions?