Today, we’d like to introduce you to the newest member of the Roanoke Times blog family: Times Square.
The new blog is meant to be a hub of information about The Roanoke Times and the stories we produce. It will be managed by our social media editor Stephanie Ogilvie, who plans to keep it fresh with everything from our most popular story of the day to sharing news about our website redesign.
Here’s how Stephanie explains it: “We see this space as a community gathering place to help you connect with us — and other readers. We envision a bustling, digital public square (which helped inspire the name) — and a place to speak directly with you about why we do what we do.”
Times Square will be the new go-to place for newsroom information, and so it will absorb the From the Newsroom blog, which will be retired.
And it will also absorb this blog, whose goal had been to tell readers about new offerings from The Roanoke Times. Now that will be within the realm of Times Square, which the RefreshRT team will help populate.
So as we gear up to introduce our new website, please head to Times Square for the latest updates. We’re looking forward to seeing how readers will use the new blog and to the next step in the evolution of roanoke.com.
Thank you to the nearly 190 readers who responded to our poll about your news source during the massive power outage last month.
You shared really valuable information and ideas about how we can better cover and deliver news in such a situation. We found it interesting that the printed newspaper and social media were equally important sources for updates during the outage.
Almost 42 percent of those who responded said that without power and a smartphone, they relied on the newspaper for information. About 32 percent said they turned to Facebook and 22 percent followed Twitter.
“Since all communication, including cell, internet, TV, land line, etc., etc. were out, I went to a local restaurant on occasion and bought a newspaper,” one respondent wrote. “This storm just proved with all of the technology available today, everything was cut off in a split second.”
A few responders even suggested we put out more papers. “There weren’t enough Roanoke Times newspapers to go around.”
The results reaffirm our approach to pushing news out via as many channels as we can. One thing we’ll keep in mind in the future is possibly repurposing some of the online content for print. For example, one person said that we should have printed a list of places where you can get ice. We had something similar on Facebook, where we asked people to post what businesses were open or closed. Maybe next time we could consider also publishing that information in the newspaper.
Finally, we realized from your feedback that we omitted from the poll a critical source of information during the outage – radio.
Many commented that radio was their primary – and often times only – source when the power was out. Some suggested that radio stations should consider interrupting their regular programming with frequent updates during an outage.
“Please put updates on the radio!!!! I had nothing else. My internet and land line phone was also out. How do expect me to look at anything on facebook, twitter, mobile news site? (I do not have a smart phone),” one responder wrote. “Go back to the radio especially at night when people are more worried and concerned. I listened to the radio as much as I could but basically heard nothing.”
“I used a battery operated radio, but stations were not giving out info but at regular news times….and then info was limited….they should have been updating/repeating info for shelters, etc. every 15 minutes,” another responder said.
To recap, here are some of the key takeaways and opportunities:
JEANNA DUERSCHERL | The Roanoke Times On July 2, David Robertson and Steve Jones removed juice from the Mick-or-Mack IGA shelves in New Castle. The store had no electricity, but was still serving customers by using generator power to use their cash registers.
Now that the derecho has passed and the power is back on, we want to hear from you about how you stayed connected to news throughout the storm and the days following.
We realized that many of our readers were not getting the news the way they normally did because of power and Internet outages and many were bunking with family and friends or staying at hotels, where access to computers was more limited or non-existent. Very quickly we started using as many channels as possible to share storm and storm recovery-related news — especially mobile channels.
The night of the storm, we sent a rare text message, directing readers to our mobile website, m.roanoke.com, for updates about the power outages and storm damage. We sent another text alert on Saturday with the same message.
During the weekend, we used Twitter and Facebook around the clock to give updates on when power was expected to be restored, and even what businesses were open. Our use of Facebook that weekend might have been one of our most successful (and useful) examples of crowdsourcing: We asked our fans to report what businesses were open or closed, and that post received almost 100 comments full of helpful tips our newsroom couldn’t have produced alone.
To make it easier to find storm-related stories, we organized all of that content in one area, and those links were prominent and accessible from pages on roanoke.com and m.roanoke.com.
These events are hard to plan for, so we strive each time to better understand what worked and what we can do differently to keep you better informed and connected. So tell us how you stay connected and any suggestions on what we can do next time by taking the poll below.
And if you have ideas on how we can continue to harness the power of social networks for public service, please share them in the comments or in the poll.
Keep up with our live coverage of the Miss Virginia pageant by following our Twitter feed @RkeTimesLive. We will be tweeting continuous updates, including many photos, as the participants take the stage tonight for swimsuit and more talent competition at the Roanoke Civic Center. You can join the conversation by using the hash tag #MissVa.
Interns Emily Mosh and Evelyn Rupert covered the preliminaries Thursday, and will return tonight and again Saturday evening, when the next Miss Virginia will be crowned.
Earlier this week we used live tweeting to cover Mitt Romney’s visit to Salem. Using social media allows us to publish news as it’s happening . We also had four bloggers capturing reactions to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling: Blue Ridge Caucus, MedBeat, Dan Casey and RoundTable. The format allowed a variety of venues for different conversations to occur quickly after the release of the ruling. Check it out here.
If you don’t use Twitter, you can still see our coverage of the pageant in the The Roanoke Times and on roanoke.com.
Have you checked out our @RkeTimesLive twitter feed? Let us know your thoughts.
Hello, folks. I’m Caitlin Saniga, a copy editor and online editor for The Roanoke Times and roanoke.com, and I have a hand in interacting with you via social media. I’m usually the one sending out tweets and posting bits and pieces on Facebook after 5 p.m.
Storify is one of the new ways we’re exploring telling stories on roanoke.com, and it involves you and your social media presence. It’s an online tool that allows users to search for keywords, phrases and hashtags (even taking into account proximity to a specified place) on sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, Google and many others.
From that, a story very different from the one we ran in the newspaper the next day was told on roanoke.com as it was happening. We followed along as runners laid out their gear the day before the race, as supporters gave their well wishes, as racers progressed along the course, as participants displayed their bloody socks and marathon medals and as some chowed down on cupcakes and beer in the area after the race. What a day! As one person on Twitter put it, “Just reading about the Blue Ridge Marathon makes me exhausted.”
In that Storify feed alone, we heard from more than 75 different sources across platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. We saw 35 photos, 2 maps, 1 chart, 1 video and more tweets and Facebook posts than we can count. It seemed like the Blue Ridge Marathon crowd was a chatty bunch.
Since going to work for the Roanoke Times I’ve become a collector of the various books the newspaper has published over the years.
Visit a Timesland used bookstore or antique mall on the right day and you can find books of Ben Beagle’s columns or commemorative reprints of the Roanoke Times’ front page over the years.
These days, the Roanoke Times is not likely to publish a book for sale.
Admittedly, I’ve been a little slow to jump on the eBook train. I still like haunting used bookstores and looking for bargain finds there, and although I love turning pages, I have little desire to read my favorite tomes on a Kindle, Nook or iPad.
But I recognize the technology’s potential. EBooks have removed much of the cost and materials associated with publishing books, making it easier for unknown authors to publish their work.
Newspapers have already started to jump on board. The Los Angeles Times published its first eBook last fall, and the New York Times reports that other publications – Politico, the New Yorker and Huffington Post, among others – are doing the same.
I think that one of the Times’ greatest assets is its archives. Librarian Belinda Harris looks after files on a variety of subjects and individuals, plus an archive that dates back to the 1890s. She uses that to collect and write each week’s “Looking Back” feature.
So I wonder: Is there an audience for eBooks collecting past material from the Roanoke Times?
I’ve got plenty of other ideas for Roanoke Times eBooks I’d like to see:
–The rise of Republicans in Virginia’s General Assembly.
– A collection of Beth Macy’s best stories and columns (which could be timed in conjunction with her upcoming book about John Bassett III and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co.)
– An annual collection of Virginia Tech football reporting.
– The life and times of former Roanoke Mayor Noel Taylor.
– The wild and wooliest true crime tales of Timesland.
Those ideas deal just with existing material and don’t even begin to scrape the surface of the potential for long-form writing on news that’s breaking now. ProPublica published a gripping story last month that also spawned a radio show (and subsequent podcast) on This American Life and also an eBook. It’s clearly a rare story that merits that treatment, but to my mind that ProPublica story and the way it was published indicates a brave new world for enterprise journalism.
Would you read Roanoke Times eBooks? If so, what collections would you like to see?
And by way of background, incidentally, here’s a short video with one of the past books published by The Roanoke Times. This is the newspaper’s 100th anniversary publication, which I borrowed from education reporter Courtney Cutright’s desk.
1. The three most important topics to readers are: Features bloggers, features stories, and upcoming shows & concerts. This pretty much aligned with what we on the features team want to highlight in the redesign. It’s helpful to know that upcoming shows and concerts ranked so high — that’s something we’ll keep in mind as we move forward.
2. Coming in after these top 3 were restaurant reviews/news and comics/puzzles. You can currently find reviews here, and leave your own.
3. National celebrity news ranked last, and that’s understandable. You want local feature stories, and that’s what we aim to provide.
Some readers also left comments, and here are some we can help with:
- Some asked for local arts reporting: Please visit Mike Allen’s “Arts & Extras” blog, where he extends his arts coverage beyond what he writes for the paper. He also writes a weekly column for the Sunday Extra section that’s full of local arts news.
- It was also good to see several of you mention you like local news, traffic news, and hard news. That’s what we highlight on roanoke.com every day.
- Finally, for the person who said “I love it when the spotlight is on local musicians, crafters, or places, . . . . . things that make our region so unique and special!” — that is definitely our newsroom’s goal: to bring to light the stories that make our place in the world special.
So that leads me to the question: Share one story idea that you have for the features team. And if you’d like to vote in our features poll, please do so!
From Mason Adams, the Roanoke City and politics reporter.
Thanks to all the readers who responded to my series of questions about podcasts and how you spend your time while commuting.
We heard that some of you regularly listen to radio – whether through your car’s stereo or streaming through a smartphone – but haven’t delved too deeply into the wide world of audio podcasts.
Some readers are interested in a potential Roanoke Times podcast – but you’re less interested in a regurgitated version of what ran in the paper that day than you are in shows that would work in concert with what you can already read online or in the print
Others said they’d be interested in hearing a local news podcast as an addition to their audio diet that already includes NPR or other podcasts.
Laura listens to a lot of podcasts but worries that a Roanoke Times show would lack a vital piece of what she enjoys on roanoke.com – reader engagement. (I owe some thanks to Laura too for mentioning that “Mountain Stage” is available as a podcast. As a Drive-By Truckers fan, I downloaded the Patterson Hood episode the other night.)
I asked whether commuters would be interested in hearing an audio version of the Roanoke Times as an alternative to the print and online editions, but no one expressed any enthusiasm for that idea.
And a couple of readers disliked the entire premise of my post and questions. I appreciate the time you put into reading and responding to me, even if the feedback was negative.
One nice thing about the online world is that post will continue to live on for the time being.
Hi RefreshRT readers. I’m Mason Adams, the Roanoke city hall and politics reporter, and you can usually find me over at the Blue Ridge Caucus blog — but today I’m interested in your thoughts on podcasts.
Podcasts are essentially radio shows you can load on an iPod or other MP3 player. At one time the Roanoke Times regularly produced news-related podcasts in which senior editor Dwayne Yancey or another editor would interview reporters about upcoming stories.
Today, the only Roanoke Times writer regularly recording podcasts is music reporter Tad Dickens, who uses them on his cutNscratch music blog to interview and play songs from bands with upcoming gigs in our area.
Tad tells me those podcasts — especially ones featuring well-known artists — might draw up to several hundred listens over time. Two of his recent podcasts, featuring Roger McGuinn and Mother’s Finest, each drew more than 1,000 listens.
I’ve been thinking a lot more about these recordings since I moved to Check last fall. My commute grew from 10 minutes to 45, so I spend a lot of time in the car each day. I fill that time by loading up my iPod with a variety of shows — everything from BBC audio documentaries to a whole slew of comedy podcasts.
So that’s got me wondering: – Do you listen to any podcasts? Which ones?
– Would you listen to Roanoke Times-produced podcasts? What would you like to hear – a round-up of the daily news, beat reporters discussing what’s happening in their worlds or a mixture of both?
– For commuters, how do you spend time on your daily drive? Do you listen to music, to the radio or to something else?
– Particularly for those who don’t always have time to read the paper or stories on roanoke.com, would you listen to an audio version of the day’s news stories?
Follow me on Twitter, @masonadamsRT or friend me on Facebook. I’m looking forward to your feedback.
Today, we introduce our features staff (responsible for putting out the Extra section and maintaining five Roanoke Times blogs), and share some information (our favorite stories, our Twitter accounts) that you might not know.
And, with a nod to AMC’s “Mad Men,” we hope you enjoy this photo illustration shot by our photographer Sam Dean. Yes, our newsroom really looks like this; no we don’t dress like this every day.
Today’s question for readers: What would you like to see from the features section in the website redesign? Here’s how the current page looks.
Mike Allen (seated at typewriter): I cover arts and culture, which in our region encompasses a broad spectrum — theater, visual arts, literary arts, opera, dance, film, classical music, museums and a number of eclectic, not-easily-classifiable things.One day I might be profiling an Oscar-nominated Hollywood producer, the next sitting in on an opera rehearsal, the next wearing a hard hat to report on multimillion dollar renovations at an arts venue. In addition to print stories, I keep an “Arts & Extras” blog (blogs.roanoke.com/arts), a Twitter account (follow @artsnextras), and a brand new Facebook page at (www.facebook.com/Arts.Extras). “Likes” appreciated.
Ralph Berrier Jr.(back center, hat in hand): I am a general assignment reporter who writes a bi-weekly parenting column called “The Dadline.” I also cover local media, families and random topics such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mill Mountain Zoo and local history. I enjoy writing about Southwest Virginia culture, as evidenced by this 2004 feature story on the wave. Read more »
The Roanoke Times is redesigning its website, roanoke.com.
As the project continues, we want to hear from readers who have ideas and can help us build our future online. This is the place for those conversations and for the latest news about our redesign. | Meet the feedback team
Also look for updates on other new digital offerings, including our tablet and mobile apps.