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17:00

Scripps fellows buy time for a local online strategy

When the E.W. Scripps Company announced its new “Scripps Fellows” program, cheers of “huzzah for jobs!” could probably be heard going up from around the news industry, not to mention on our Twitter feed. Granted, the 40 or so new media fellowships are 6-12 month stints, not the full-time gigs journalists crave, but it’s frontline work at newspapers around the country that have mostly been shrinking their staffs.

Maybe that cheer should have been “huzzah for strategy!” It’s not as catchy, but it’s on point: The fellows program, aside from offering opportunities for new and established journalists, is Scripps’ way of helping their papers shore up staff and create time to devise a localized web/print strategy for content and advertising.

“This frees up time for site managers and people like myself to focus on strategy,” Mizell Stewart, editor of the Evansville Courier & Press, told me. Stewart is a member of the task force overseeing the fellows program.

Instead of creating a cross-company strategy for integrating web and print or raising online revenue, Scripps has tasked each paper with finding out what works best in their community. With fellows in areas like multimedia reporting, web design/development, and user experience analysis, managers will be able to tasked with exploring things like CMS options, delivery of mobile products, and how to create stronger local content.

“The evolution of digital in a lot of local newspapers has started in the newsroom, broke off to a separate operation, and now we’re at the point where it is integrated into the newsroom again,” Stewart said.

Scripps papers are like countless others that find themselves spinning plates: Turning out a daily paper, producing a website, devising online advertising rates, attracting new readers, experimenting with social media, the list (or plates) go on.

In this case each Scripps paper will hire and deploy the fellows to suit their needs, so while the Naples Daily News may get someone handy shooting and editing video, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis may get an online producer. Stewart said a number of fellows with programming or UX experience will work with the interactive newsgroup in Knoxville that provides support to their websites.

Just how aggressively are they going after these digital natives? They’re directing applicants to their Facebook page to get more information and apply.

“Oftentimes people who are just beginning their careers but coming out of those education institutions that do training in digital media, sometimes their skill sets are stronger than those who have been on our staff a long time,” he said.

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