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Columbia Missourian

Dear Reader: Missourian’s new approach is immediate delivery on Web

By Liz Heitzman
August 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT
Liz Heitzman

Dear reader:

My name is Liz Heitzman, and I am the Missourian’s immediacy editor. It’s a newly created position, and I’m still working with the editors and reporters to define how the job will work. But you will notice some changes in our coverage — immediately.

You’ll see most of the differences at our Web site, ColumbiaMissourian.com. The site is no longer a stagnant reflection of the morning’s newspaper. Instead, we are beginning to update it with breaking news and with the next day’s stories as soon as we get them.

In the next few months, we hope to get faster and better at making the Web site a constantly changing reflection of the day’s news.

Newspapers across America are struggling to attract readers and subscribers and many have suggested the old model of printing a newspaper and selling ads is no longer sustainable. I don’t know where the future is headed in this business, but it’s clear that the Internet and the immediacy it allows will continue to be an important part — perhaps the most important part — of a news organization like this one.

Before I continue, let me share a bit of history — institutional and personal.

As you might know, the first edition of this newspaper was printed Sept. 14, 1908, the same day classes commenced at the Missouri School of Journalism.

For nearly a century, aspiring journalists led by professional editors have put the ideals of journalism into practice in this giant learning lab.

On Monday, about 130 new reporters filled the Missourian newsroom, located on the third floor of Lee Hills Hall. The students are a bundle of ambitions, nerves and talent.

It’s much the same as when I started working at this newspaper nearly a decade ago as an undergraduate.

But much has changed in this business since then.

When I trained in this newsroom in the late ’90s, timeliness meant filing a story by 6 p.m. for the next day’s newspaper. “Beating the competition,” at least in the newspaper business, was measured in 24-hour time periods, from edition to edition.

As you know, all that has changed with the Internet, which, like television and radio, provides immediate updates on the news of the day.

Deadline at the Missourian is no longer a once-a-day occurrence. Reporters are now always on deadline. And the competition is always on.

If we do our job well, much of what has happened over the decades in this newsroom will continue. We’ll continue to have serious discussions about what makes a story and how best to get it. We’ll continue to seek out truth; keep government bodies and public officials accountable; and entertain.

How continuous news updates will shake out for the Missourian and this industry remains to be seen. We will continue to take on thoughtful enterprise reporting projects, but, for breaking news, there are unique challenges to publishing stories within minutes instead of hours or days. The stories we post will still meet journalistic standards of accuracy and fairness, but, in some cases, you will see stories before they are finished; as we can share what we know while we gather further facts.

For this new emphasis to succeed, we will need your help. Of course, it doesn’t matter how quickly we can update our home page if we don’t have news to report. As always, we depend on you for tips and questions to get news into the Missourian.