Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Posts Tagged ‘Journal Gazette Times Courier

Lee’s first multimedia supplement

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Last Friday was the first anniversary of Rod Blagojevich’s historic ousting from the Illinois’ governor’s seat. Like many state newspapers, Lee Enterprises unveiled a story on Blagojevich’s legacy last week that dealt with his lingering presence in the Capitol. We included a timeline of Blagojevich’s life with the story, and I suggested we make it interactive. My bureau chief liked the idea and we used a site called to make an interactive timeline. It was easy as pie to create, and two newspapers linked to it inside the Blagojevich legacy story. They were the Quad-City Times and the Journal Gazette Times-Courier.

As far as I’m aware, this was the first multimedia supplement that the Lee Enterprise Springfield bureau has created.

Take a look:

And the link.

It’s simple but effective. And personally I would rather look at an interactive timeline than a simple list of events. That was the alternative, of course.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. I would love to help bump up the level of multimedia content that comes out of the Springfield bureau. Of course, writing will be the focus all session. But every once in a while, multimedia supplements–like timelines, graphs and maps–really help make the story (or sidebar) pop. I think this Blagojevich timeline is a good example of this.

Written by csessig

January 30, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Same speech, three different stories

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One interesting dilemma while working for a newspaper company as opposed to a newspaper is making your coverage meaningful for all of your publications. What that typically means for most stories is getting sources–lawmakers–from every region we cover: the Quad cities, Bloomington, Decatur, Mattoon/Charleston and southern Illinois. The same was true for Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address yesterday. Basically we split our coverage into two parts: a story on the speech, which was compiled by my bureau chief Kurt Erickson, and a reaction piece from local lawmakers, which I worked on with Mike Riopell. Usually when we write a reaction story or a story or a piece of legislation, we put together one article filed with quotes from lawmakers in the five mentioned coverage areas. Well, the SoS address was a little different. Instead of one story, we decided to create separate stories for each coverage area.

Fortunately, The Southern covered the speech on their own, so we didn’t need to worry about talking to those six lawmakers in their area. But getting a hold of the other lawmakers after the speech was mandatory, meaning Mike and I had to talk to roughly 15 lawmakers before they got the hell out of the Capitol. And the result of that was three separate stories (the Quad City Times did not pick up our story). All the stories were set up the same, they just featured different lawmakers. Here’s a quick wrap:

Decatur Herald & Review

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he assumed the speech would take political tones with Quinn facing a primary election in three weeks.

“The city of Decatur…has 15 percent unemployment,” he said. “What did he talk about putting those people back to work? What did he talk about bring manufacturing back to Illinois? I didn’t hear a lot.”

Budget details will come when Quinn gives lawmakers his proposal in the coming months, said state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion.

Bloomington Pantagraph

“I think he’s a nice guy, but certainly the speech didn’t tell us anything,” said state Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “It had no meat in it at all.”

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, agreed.

“It was a long speech short on specifics,” Brady said.

Matton Journal Gazette & Times-Courier

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he thought Quinn’s remarks should have focused more on the problems facing Illinois.

“I felt like we were walking through Candy Land,” Rose said. “We’ve got real problems to address.”

Similar criticism came from other Republicans.

“I was disappointed the governor didn’t spend more time on the issues that really trouble the state,” said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “The speech isn’t about what’s good about the state of Illinois. It’s just the state of Illinois. And there is a lot wrong in Illinois.

Amazingly, almost every lawmaker we talked to basically said the same thing: the speech, despite being 75 minutes long, lacked specifics. But in all fairness, Quinn’s budget address is coming up next month, which will likely include more specific details on how the state is going to get out of this fiscal nightmare. It will be interesting to see how Quinn–whether he’s the Democratic nominee or not–addresses the state then.

If you feel so inclined, the entire budget address is available by clicking here.

Also, a full transcript of the speech is available here.

The last year…

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Well, well, well. Now that I’m inching ever so close to the real world, I figure I better keep this blog updated. Yeah, I told myself this when I started the blog, but I really hope I keep the blog update to date this time. Anyways, here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to:

1. I’m currently enrolled at the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois. I don’t mean to brag, but the program is wonderful. Here’s a quick summary: PAR is a one-year master’s program that focuses the 20-some-odd grad students on covering–you guessed it–public affairs. The focal point of the program is the spring semester, where the students intern with an Illinois news bureau at the Statehouse, covering the daily madness inside the state capitol. We receive 15 credit hours for the internship and by the time we are ready to graduate in May, we will have a robust 40 hours under our belts. The first semester, by contrast, was spent in the classroom, basically prepping us for the internship. Before the semester came to a close, my classmates and I interviewed with a variety of news outlets that have a bureau inside the Capitol newsroom, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Herald, Gatehouse Media, St. Louis Dispatch and Lee Enterprises. We were assigned a bureau via a compatibility test, which I can only assume is same test utilized by

2. After the compatibility test ran its course, I was assigned with Lee Enterprises. I’m was–and still am–excited about my assignment. For those unfamiliar with Lee, it’s a national newspaper publishing company with newspapers coast to coast. But because I’ll be reporting on Illinois politics, we focus on five, fine, Downstate newspapers: Quad-City Times in northwestern Illinois, the Pantagraph in Bloomington, the Herald & Review in Decatur, the Journal-Gazette Times Courier in Mattoon and the Southern Illinoisian in Carbondale. We cover a lot of area and a lot of lawmakers. The blog will keep you up-to-date with all the fine work we are putting together in Springfield.

3. Over the summer, I interned with a Lee Enterprise publication: the JG-TC in Mattoon. I was a general assignment reporter, which meant I covered everything from the state’s astronomical budget deficit to the trade secrets of a 13-year-old wether raiser. I also produced a few videos and a full scale Adobe Flash multimedia package, which can be viewed on my web site: Thankfully the multimedia skills I developed during my time working at the Daily Eastern News were put to good use over the summer. And my reporting skills vastly improved because of the internship. I gave much credit to the JG-TC for not only helping me land my current internship but getting in the PAR program as well.

5. I graduated from EIU in May. I’m more than happy about being at UIS, but I will always miss my original alma mater. What a wonderful four years. I still visit often because a number of my friends still have a few semesters to go. But the days of residence in Charleston are over…I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

5. The Lee internship started up this week, so I’m just getting settled in. Be sure to stay tuned for updates from the internship! It should be a wild ride…