Monday, September 05, 2011

Tallahasee | Editor Gabordi writes about: 'Your passions, our reporting: Building for the future'

In a blog post this weekend, Editor Bob Gabordi of Florida's Tallahassee Democrat writes about Gannett's new quality control program for its U.S. newspapers, called passion topics. (Note: I can't link to his post because its behind the Democrat's paywall.) Here's Gabordi:

People like living here.

For some, it is the region’s natural beauty. For others, it is the presence of Florida State University. For still others, it is the sense that this is a good place to raise children: small enough that people are neighborly, large enough to have entertainment and professional opportunities to grow.

For the nearly 300 people who took part in our informal survey, the general conclusion was the Tallahassee area is a very nice place to live.

It was the most response we gotten to any of our surveys and those who took part tended to have lived here for at least five years. More women than men answered our questions. But participants otherwise reflected all areas of the city and fairly well reflected the demographics of the community in age and income.

More than a third of people who responded said this phrase best described them: “My family and home are my life.” That fascinated me, though it was hardly a surprise.

Family and raising our children right is a value that transcends the ethnic and culture diversity of our region. In other words, at least for people who answered our survey, raising our kids right is a shared value whether the family looks like "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" or even "Two-and-a-Half-Men."

What are your passions?
The survey gave people the chance to describe in their own words what they are most passionate about. Here are a few answers that I think best reflected that point, when asked what they are most passionate about:

“(Tallahassee is) reasonably safe and secure, culture and educational environment in which to live and raise children, and be with immediate and extended family members, from very young to elderly.”

“Tallahassee is a great place to bring up a child.”

“Our schools, our arts community, our resources for children and their families, and our physical/natural environment.”

Florida State was another point of passion for many respondents. Just more than one of ten people said they were best described as an FSU sports fanatic, but many more mentioned FSU when asked about their passions, from the medical school to just living in an environment that valued higher education.

Other passion points emerging in the survey were politics, the environment, personal health and the arts.

The concept of the survey came from a Zing! In which the writer said everything he or she disliked about Tallahassee. That didn’t fit with the Tallahassee I knew and I wondered how others felt.

Hired: multimedia reporters
At the same time, we’ve put together an internal group at the Tallahassee Democrat, which we’ve charged with helping us build the newspaper, website and mobile news products of the future, which will include deciding how our organization will be shaped. Some decisions have already been made, and they are more than simple tweaks of our organizational structure.

For example, we’ve made two recent hires for positions we’ve never had before, a breaking news reporter with multimedia skills and a multimedia sports reporter. Both can and do write traditional news stories, but their primary focus is electronic media.

The intersection of these two concepts -- one looking at our audiences’ passion points and the other looking at how to best focus our journalists’ time and other resources -- is the news organization of the future. While others continue to arrogantly or despairingly predict our demise, we’re rebuilding, reshaping and retraining, and in some cases hiring to get new skills we think the future demands -- and to better serve our readers’ news and information need.

We are confident of the future for this news outlet and will continue to work hard to prove our value to our readers and digital audience. This process is a sign of that confidence. This survey is one piece of that and you will hear much more about this in the months ahead. Our readers, subscribers and advertising customers will be our partners in building your media organization of choice.

At the same time, over the next few months you will see the results of months of work by reporters working on deep investigative reports, because we know our obligation is also to serve as a watchdog on state and local government, especially on topics about which our readers care about the most.

More to come.

Earlier: Why the new passion topics program sounds so familiar.

Details are now dribbling out from last month's meeting among editors about passion topics. What are you hearing at your site? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. It's good that the Democrat has hired two news staffers. And it's appropriate to tell readers about that.

    A more candid post, however, would have mentioned that the Democrat eliminated an estimated 12 jobs in early June alone, following earlier cuts in the first quarter and the fourth quarter of 2010.

  2. Wow. That's some crappy writing.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Big G editors. We know you are mostly in your 50s and hanging on to your jobs by your bloody fingernails and will fire anyone in your shop to protect yourselves....and please stop shoveling BULL---- at the readers you have left....

  5. So how much did this survey cost? Betcha nothing, and I find its results reported here as being in line with what I would expect: most readers are family oriented. Is that a surprise. Nor do I find the paper's response of adding staff anything but commendable. Build on your strengths seems to be what Dickey is preaching. So they are building on their strengths and defying corporate demands to cut payrolls. Is a reversal and revival at hand elsewhere? Not yet, as I see it.

  6. Gabordi is nothing if not one of the finest editors I have worked for.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. 7:19 Please post that again, but without the name-calling.

  9. Sounds to me like more G A N N E T T bull shit...Once again the corporate tower finds it necessary to reinvent the wheel...This time with fewer spokes.

    A leaner, kinder, more passionate newspaper is coming your way!


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