In Saturday's editions you'll find a story on a topic and with a byline you wouldn't normally expect to see: A piece on the state championship wins of three high school dance teams from our DuPage County circulation area. The story was written by your friendly DuPage County editor.
Why was I writing about poms and open dance and stuff like that, you may ask? The answer is pretty simple and a little embarrassing: I thought we had screwed up. A reporter in another office forwarded an email from Deena Vargocko, a Glenbard North dance coach. She wanted the world to know about her team capturing the state 4A title in poms, and could the Daily Herald do a piece on the team's success? The girls, she said, don't always get the recognition they deserve.
I wrote back almost immediately, saying I could relate because my stepdaughter was a member of the pom team in her high school days, and I know full well the sometimes unheralded nature of the sport. Sure, I said, we'd be happy to do a story about Glenbard North's triumph.
Perhaps I should have looked a little closer at my own newspaper before shooting my mouth off. Turns out our crack reporting and editing team in our Arlington Heights office already was on the case. The very day I thought we needed to catch up with the big news at Glenbard North, we had published a story noting that three schools in the Daily Herald circulation area had claimed grand champion titles and several more had captured individual honors in open dance, lyrical dance, poms, kick and flag. Guess I could have called Vargocko back and said, "Sorry, we already did a story on you guys; here's a link." But I felt I owed her team a little more than that. So because of that, and also because the reporting staff was tied up with other things, I took this project on myself. I mean, how hard could it be to find some video, photos, do some quick interviews?
It also seemed a good idea for the boss to learn how to do what he's been harping at the staff to do: Provide more online content for our subscribers. As you know, we started charging last fall for access to our website, and set it up in a way to encourage our print subscribers to pay the $1-a-week premium for total access to the Daily Herald website, phone and tablet apps, the afternoon email news alert and other perks. So the mission around here these days is to ensure there are plenty of online extras. You may have noticed this past week several "teasers" in the print editions touting that "Members GET more." This often takes the form of videos, but it also, in Friday's paper, for instance, included a link to the Carol Stream Library's online survey and the DuPage County newsletter that's generated a bit of controversy.
So, I asked the dance team coaches for links to the videos or I found 'em myself, and thanks to a new computer system upgrade, was able to figure out our new way of attaching the videos and submitted photos from the dance teams to the story with only a modest amount of supervision from my trusted city editor, Bob Smith. Later, I was actually able to do this function on my own, glancing only briefly at the cheat sheet I have plastered to my computer screen (left click on "budget," go to "work," then "create and link element," check the "url asset" box, paste in -- for YouTube videos -- the portion of the url that comes after the = sign). Easy as pie!
If that explanation sounded a little curmudgeonly, guilty as charged. I was one of the last people I know to get a cellphone. The upgrade to a smartphone terrified me, though I'll readily admit I play with it all the time, use it to stay in touch with work. And if the benefit of all this technology and the resultant procedure that goes with it is more multi-platformed (as they say in the news biz these days) ways to engage our readers, well, I'm all for it.