The StarNews in Wilmington, N.C., was recently named GateHouse’s Media’s Inner Circle Gold winner for 2018. The award recognizes one newsroom team among hundreds across the company, that far exceeds the company’s editorial top editorial goals.
The Inner Circle, GateHouse Media’s quarterly newsroom evaluation program, began in 2011 to establish measurable best practices and to evaluate newsroom-based goals. Over the years, the program has evolved to support the company’s priorities in the changing world of journalism. The program focuses on three key areas:
1. #DoJournallismWithImpact: Producing in-depth news enterprise stories on high-interest, high-engagement topics that resonate with readers
2. Building relationships: Establishing our editorial teams as champions for the voiceless, and connecting with readers in person to better understand their concerns
3. Growing audience: Emphasizing areas of industry growth, such as video and audio, along with quality social media engagement
Here’s how the staff at the StarNews championed these important initiatives and came away with GateHouse’s top editorial honor of the year:
1. How did you motivate your staff to participate in Inner Circle Gold 2018?
In early November (2017), after we learned that we were eligible for Inner Circle Gold, we started a “Going for the Gold” rewards program. We gave staff members “gold tickets” for accomplishing digital wins, including photo galleries and articles with unusually high page views, Facebook Live videos and high social referrals for articles and photo galleries. We launched the effort with a pizza party in the newsroom, and even put up a few gold decorations to get everyone in the spirit. The rewards program gave staff members an incentive to raise the bar and created excitement around achieving our goals. At the end of December, we had a newsroom party with a few snacks and drew winners from the bucket of gold tickets for gift cards.
2. Why did you think it was important to get everyone involved?
Q4 is often a time of year when a lot of folks are on vacation, which means content levels drop. We wanted everyone to feel like they had a stake in our success. The gold tickets served as a way for us to celebrate on a daily basis when someone excelled and got us closer to reaching our Inner Circle goals. The rewards program also meant that everyone had a shot at getting a gift card, but those who are more digitally savvy had more tickets and a greater chance at winning.
3. Will you do anything different this year to win again?
We have continued the rewards program, but we’ve made it monthly. We’ve also changed the structure for getting gold tickets to more closely align with our audience growth goals and individual reporter/photographer goals. So the program is a little less focused on Inner Circle, but instead focused on growing our digital audience and community engagement. If reporters and photographers meet their goals, the newsroom will easily achieve Inner Circle certification each quarter, and hopefully be in the running for Inner Circle Gold again.