This past weekend was interesting here in Las Vegas as a lot of very different types of stories were swirling around us — President Obama was in town, a new Cirque du Soleil show opened, a huge new section was launched on our site, the city’s hot-and-cold Rebels played basketball and a massive multimedia joint effort to explain Nevada’s budget woes ran across all of the Las Vegas Sun’s platforms.
Convergence wasn’t a buzzword this past weekend — it was the type of journalism the Sun was actually committing.
Even though this blog post is mostly about our weekend coverage, for us this story actually began Thursday as folks waited for tickets to see President Obama speak at a local high school. We quickly posted a story and photo gallery of the spectacle, with hundreds waiting in line for tickets to the presidential forum.
(This was all published online as a constantly developing story that was updated throughout the day. That’s a fancy way of saying we kept updating the same story page instead of having several different stories on our site, this way readers could keep visiting the same story page for the latest news.)
A few hours later we had live updates on slight delays for Air Force One, as two of our local/breaking news reporters (Kyle Hansen and Tiffany Gibson) tag-teamed the day’s text coverage. Photos by Greenspun newsroom photographer Leila Navidi were posted within minutes of his arrival, as our photographers post their shots directly into our online content-management system.
Our homepage was designed to give it all really nice play.
Then in Friday’s newspaper, we had the story from the Sun’s Washington correspondent Lisa Mascaro about what the president’s visit to Las Vegas was primarily about — a foreclosure program that would pump money into areas like Nevada that were hit hard in the housing crisis. Of course, the newspaper also had a teaser to direct readers to lasvegassun.com for updated coverage of Obama’s visit throughout the day.
Here’s what the front page of the print edition looked like that morning:
We had a reporter and a photographer at both locations where the president was speaking — as two of our news operation’s main political reporters (J. Patrick Coolican and Michael Mishak) both fed the Sun’s website with frequent updates of the speech. We also had reaction from D.C. from Mascaro.
That left us with a full story of the visit, five photo galleries (Obama’s town hall forum, his meeting with business leaders, his arrival, his departure and protesters) and embedded YouTube video of his entire speech.
Of course, all of that online coverage then was followed with the Sun print edition’s analytical coverage by Coolican and Mishak in the next morning’s newspaper.
At the last newspaper many members of our online team worked at, a presidential visit wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. But 2,500 miles from D.C., we pulled out all the stops for Obama’s second visit to Las Vegas while in office.
But just because the Sun had wrapped up its coverage of Obama didn’t mean we were done on that Friday night … well, it was more like early Saturday morning.
The new Cirque du Soleil show — Viva Elvis — had its world-premiere Friday. Our news operation is blessed to have a truly amazing arts reviewer, Joe Brown.
The front page of the next morning’s newspaper told our readers they could visit our site to see his first-look review of the show. (The Elvis photo illustration on the front of the Sun print edition was put together by our online senior designer, Danny Debelius.)
Just check out the prominence of this online refer in the print edition:
And it was worth it because the first Las Vegas publications to have a review of the show were the Sun and Las Vegas Weekly, via lasvegassun.com and lasvegasweekly.com. But this was about much more than just having it first. I know I’m about as biased as they come when it comes to things like this, but Joe’s review was easily the best of the bunch.
But all of this fiber-cyber synergy was nothing compared to the online refer that ran on the backpage of our print edition for our new Elvis section on lasvegassun.com. It basically was a user’s guide to the Sun’s huge site dedicated to the “King of Rock and Roll,” designed (and even written) by our newspaper’s lead print designer, Rachel Perkins.
Building a massive Elvis section on our newspaper’s website was an obvious thing to do; we just needed a good excuse to do it. The new Cirque show gave us the reason and a real deadline to get it launched.
Yes, we have all sorts of stuff in the section about the “Viva Elvis” show — including a great Flash timeline of how the Cirque empire came to be — built by Tyson Anderson and compiled by Melissa Arseniuk.
But just like with the new Cirque show, French-Canadian acrobats aren’t the star of the Sun’s Elvis site. It was built to try to explain Elvis’ unique — and seemingly inseparable ties — with Las Vegas.
The site opens with two incredibly informative and well-done stories by Sun veterans Steve Kanigher and John Katsilometes that explain the bond and history between Elvis Presley and Las Vegas, as well as why the connection continues.
My favorite parts of the site are:
* Memories of Elvis from our readers.
* Elvis photos from the public via Flickr.
* The most kick-ass downloadable Elvis wallpapers you’ve ever seen.
* Tons and tons of Elvis and Elvis-related photo galleries from our archives.
* Video overkill, including a great clip of what Elvis tribute artists think of the song Viva Las Vegas being used in Viagra commercials, as well as what the “blue carpet” looked like for the opening of the Cirque show. (Because of “Blue Suede Shoes,” there was a blue carpet instead of a red carpet.)
* And my absolute favorite part of the site: really fascinating-to-read stories from the Sun’s archives, like the Las Vegas wedding of Elvis and Priscilla. And Vegas’ reaction to Elvis’ death from the summer of 1977.
And then came Saturday … gameday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Sometime in the next few weeks, I am going to try to post an overview of our UNLV Runnin’ Rebels site and explain all of the strategies we’re trying to accomplish with it, but for the purposes of talking about a weekend full of cross-platform/multimedia journalism, I really can’t ignore our college hoops coverage.
On game day, it starts with Ryan Greene’s live game blog.
I’ve read lots of live coverage of sporting events, but I believe in my heart that Ryan is one of the best live-game bloggers I’ve ever seen. His posts are really insightful, very informative and have a ton of voice. And he’s typically right in the middle of the reader comments on the blog, answering questions and filling in details for our readers right there from press row.
But that’s not all he does during the game.
He’s also updating the Sun’s live Twitter feed.
And writing and publishing our live mobile-phone text-messaging updates of the game.
As soon as the game is over, our team’s sports editor Ray Brewer quickly posts something we call “Instant Analysis” — which gives our readers an almost immediate column about the game. It’s amazing how quickly it gets posted.
There are all sorts of postgame stories and notes packages written by Greene and other members of our sports staff, including Case Keefer, as well as a database-driven box score.
You’ll also notice that all of the players’ names in the stories click-through to their constantly updated bio and stat pages thanks to our evening online editor John Fritz.
Then there’s Christine Killimayer’s killer highlights and interview video package. Christine shoots the video, does the interviews, writes the script, does the opening stand-up and edits the whole package. It is 100 percent and all done on a same-day deadline.
From a photo standpoint, you get images published during the actual game from Justin Bowen, then a large postgame gallery that can be viewed full-screen.
And it’s all wrapped up with a postgame podcast that is produced by our editorial team in the arena.
What I love about all of this is how not only is it all tied together seamlessly (you can find everything I just outlined linked in each of that game’s stories), but also that it’s all produced on “Internet time.” These stories and packages weren’t posted on a print deadline because the print edition of the Sun doesn’t even have a sports section.
This was all content built specifically for the web.
And in the Sunday morning print edition of the Las Vegas Sun, there was a feature we call “Sunday Conversation,” which is about as converged of an effort as anything our team has ever worked on.
It started with Sun political editor Michael Squires working with Sun political writer David McGrath Schwartz to pull together a roundtable interview of several leading political and business organizations to have a very frank conversation that gets to the real guts about what’s going on with the state budget, as well as the future of Nevada.
Once they were assembled in the Sun’s newsroom, Schwartz moderated the conversation while it was videotaped for both our website and to run in parts during our broadcast convergence partner’s newscasts — KVBC/NBC Channel 3.
What’s really cool is that Squires — the print editor — went through the complete transcript of the nearly 70-minute interview to select the five segments that would run statewide on television via KVBC and its sister stations throughout Nevada. The guy even wrote the intros to the clips.
The new Greenspun newsroom has a high-def studio and control room in it. Here are behind-the-scenes photos of us shooting this package, if you’re interested.
Here is how the video appeared on lasvegassun.com:
And here is how the project looked in print:
So, that’s what the Las Vegas Sun did last weekend. We don’t know if it’s the right or wrong way to approach things, but it sure feels a lot closer to right than it does to wrong.
And you know what’s really cool? We have almost equally crazy-huge plans for a bunch of events and stories this coming weekend.
NASCAR is town for a big race.
The Rebels are on the road in a must-win game.
And the Nevada Legislature is still meeting in special session.
This really is a great place to be practicing this type of journalism.
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