By Dan Spears

Third Vice President

Our APSE Small-Paper Hangout — once-a-month 30-minute sessions with editors and reporters on subjects you’ve asked to learn more about — launched in January.

Our first Hangout focused on “big” stories and how to make them important for you. The panelists were Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Michael Peters of the Tulsa World.

As a reporter:

  • When you’re coming up with an idea: What is that question that you want answered? Go answer it! Having this conversation with yourself has to be intentional and part of the daily checklist.
  • How does something happen (ie: How do you kick in Green Bay in the winter, and is that part of the reason the team’s only had three kickers in 20 years?)
  • Write everything down that you think of. You might not use it, but as soon as you don’t, it’s something you’ll wish you remembered.
  • Word count vs. reading long. Never care about No. 1 (especially for the web), always care about No. 2.
  • Take a day to self-edit yourself when you’re done writing.

As an editor:

  • What’s in the back of your mind?
  • Get with the right people and work the best you can to make it a reality
  • Be proud of what you and your people are doing. Tell your higher-ups. They just might want it for the front of the site, lead of the newsletter, main story on A1.
  • Yes we look at analytics, but it can’t be *all* about page views. Engagement time can be a big standout, too. “If you’re writing about sheep, find the shepherds.”
  • Don’t be afraid to break things down into pieces or combine them, as necessary. You must manage your time well to do a bigger story, or stories. Don’t let it consume you the wrong way.

Our February hangout will take place during the Winter Conference in Orlando, Feb. 24-28. To join, email me ( and I’ll add you to the Hangout.


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