News Directors often have their hands full dealing with short range or daily planning. Yet, one of the higher orders of the job is to manage for the long-term editorial direction of the news department.
Long-term editorial planning is a system by which you indentify and prioritize the largest issues facing your community. Then you strategically and methodically deploy your resources to address those issues in an impactful way.
The importance of long-term planning can be seen in some of the consequential benefits:
- Greater depth and context in individual stories
- Greater congruity and direction in serial coverage
- Greater opportunity for multi-platform build-outs
- Greater opportunity for promotion of content
- Greater opportunity for funding of content
- Greater opportunity for community involvement
- Greater anticipation of necessary news resources
Here are a few ways to jump-start some long term editorial planning in your newsroom:
When you see a major SPECIAL EVENT on the horizon, begin the planning process immediately. (Example: the Olympics, the Republican or Democratic National Convention, the pope’s visit, etc.)
For large RECURRING EVENTS, begin the planning well in advance. (Example: elections, tournaments, special holidays, etc.)
Hold a NEW YEAR’S ISSUE SUMMIT — an agenda-setting meeting of all station news personnel — and stipulate the top issues facing your region and how you plan to tackle them.
Plan an ANNUAL NEWS SERIES (with town hall meeting?) in which all news personnel contribute to an in-depth, original probe into a major news topic.
Long-term planning implies a system where long-range goals (usually a programming initiative) are defined, then broken down into near term actions. Set deadlines and hold regularly scheduled meetings to track progress.
The earlier you begin, the better you can assure the allocation of time and other resources into the intended outcome.
The ND is often in the best position to lead the effort but doesn’t have to manage every aspect. Consider assigning a team member as lead producer.
Long-term editorial planning can also inform strategies for better daily coverage. For example, an annual retreat may help set goals for particular news initiatives, which then are reviewed in monthly planning sessions, and carried out in daily assignment procedures.
One very strong method of connecting long-term strategy to near-term results is to use a beat system of coverage. The beat system promotes specialization by your reporters and deeper development of sources. In a beat system, you can reasonably expect your reporter to tackle high-priority, long-term issues by chipping away over time, using smaller stories to explore the larger context.