PRSAHR’s Media Panel Offers Industry Insights

    Learning from the Pros:
    PRSAHR’s Media Panel Offers Industry Insights
    PRSAHR’s March meeting brought together an all-star panel of local media experts to talk with us about trends and developments in the market. Moderated by Joel Rubin, APR, the panel included Marisa Porto, director of content and publisher of the Daily Press; Bill Henry, senior editor at The Virginian-Pilot; Lisa Godley, producer and reporter at WHRO; and Dave Forster, editor of the recently launched Southside Daily.
    Dave Forster talked about the creation of Southside Daily by parent company Local Voice Media.
    “Local Voice starts with the idea of uniting radio and digital, throwing away the cost of the printing press,” said Dave, who used to write for The Virginian-Pilot. 

    Like digital news operations the company operates in Williamsburg; Wilmington, N.C,; and Columbia, S.C.; Southside Daily combines an online news site with morning news updates on a local radio station, The Tide. A major emphasis of its distribution model is social media, said Dave.
    In addition to a sales team, Southside Daily currently has a staff of five covering news primarily in Virginia Beach.
    “Although we are starting to creep into Norfolk covering business and entertainment,” said Dave.
    Lisa Godley is a producer and reporter at WHRO, where her primary responsibility is working on the Friday talk program “Another View,” hosted by Barbara Hamm Lee.
    “With 'Another View,' we discuss issues from an African-American perspective,” says Lisa. “But about 80% of our listeners are not African-American.”
    Lisa also discussed the Veterans Coming Home and Race: Let’s Talk About It initiatives, two other big projects that have taken much of her time and focus.
    When asked about topics and ideas for programs and stories, Lisa had advice.
    “A lot of our show ideas come from the community,” she said.  “All I can say is, if you have a story idea, email us, email us, email us.”
    Marisa Porto has only been recently appointed Publisher at the Daily Press, in the wake of the retirement of longtime Peninsula presence Digby Solomon.
    She talked about the structural and cultural changes that the traditional print publication has been undergoing recently, including removing the printing press from the publications business model.  The Daily Press now is printed at a press in Richmond, which allowed the paper’s operations to move into new headquarters in the Newport News City Center.  Marisa described the move as a big, symbolic change.
    “It was a huge change in the culture. It feels more like a start-up,” said Marisa. “All of a sudden, you don’t feel the connection to the printing and you pay attention to where the content goes.”
    Marisa acknowledged that there are obviously fewer people at the Daily Press than there were a few years ago.
    "We’ve collapsed the level of administration to put more people in the streets,” she said. “We are covering the same beats, but differently. Reporters are taking pictures and video and posting online.  They are a one-person show.”
    Marisa discussed how the transition of roles wasn’t always smooth and how, during a period of testing with smartphones, one reporter reacted rather negatively towards the idea.
    “”I won’t tell you what he told me I could do with that phone,” said Marisa.
    She also said that reporter is today one of their most aggressive and effective on social media, David Teel.
    Bill Henry also discussed the new life of a reporter.
    “The thing that everyone in our newsroom is dealing with is the challenge of straddling two worlds, print and digital,” said Bill. “We still try to do that well and take the time to print stories that people may want to take some time with.”
    Bill also talked about the big impact digital has on expectations for reporters.
    “Reporters are now pretty much always on call,” he said.  “It’s not easy for them.”
    There was also a little envy expressed for the startup atmosphere at the Daily Press and Southside Daily.
    “We are pretty envious of Dave’s world because they have shed a lot,” said Bill.  “We are still in our industrial shell and it’s about two-thirds empty.  There are spaces where you walk into it and it feels like people haven’t been there for 6 or 8 years.”
    When asked about the future, Marisa wasn’t too certain about the prospects for the printed product.
    “At some point the physical print edition might not be in print any more,” she said.  "We have readers that like the print, but we don’t have enough to sustain the business model.”



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