YDR Insider

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The York Daily Record story, as told to a good friend

NOTE: Tonight, I am giving a virtual tour of our newsroom to the Cub Scout pack that my friend’s son is in. We are doing this via Skype on iPad because the boys live in the Philadelphia area. The following is an email I wrote to my friend, who was my roommate in college, my managing editor at the school paper, and Best Man at my wedding. I realized when I was done that this note to a best friend offers my most honest view of what we are doing at the York Daily Record.


Hi Pete,

     In the context of our talk tonight with your Cub Scout pack, I thought I’d catch you up on the YDR experience. This likely won’t translate to the Cubs, but I think you’ll be interested.
     Our goal is simply stated: To be the No. 1 source of news and information for and about York County.
     We are a part of Digital First Media, the second-largest newspaper company in America. We understand the irony in measuring our company as a newspaper while at the same time we see ourselves as a multi-platform publisher. Indeed, here in York we preach repeatedly that the York Daily Record is not a newspaper. Rather, the York Daily Record is a 24/7 local news operation that gathers and shares content through any means possible. A newspaper is one tool we use. As is the web, and a smartphone and a tablet. The irony mentioned earlier merely reflects where we are in a transition.
     While some in the industry are still dragging their feet or flat-out resisting change, here in York we revel in the transformation that surrounds us. We no longer have copy editors or reporters or photographers. We have multi-platform journalists who handle a variety of duties. We have specialists, of course. We have people who are great writers or great page designers or great web designers or great photographers. But our photographers also write stories. Our reporters shoot photos and video. Our page designers aggregate for the web and write for blogs and head out to cover fires.
     We share information immediately, using Twitter at meetings or breaking news events, using Facebook throughout the day to promote stories that are further along in development, and using livestream video at some games and news conferences. We use Cover It Live to give moment-to-moment updates from trials and sporting events.
     We work hard to drive up comments and content from the public. Most of our commenting features are unmoderated.
     We partner with innovative vendors on new ventures. For instance, we have worked closely with the developers of GeoFeedia to use geo-tagging to capture social media in ways previously unimaginable.
     At the same time we remain committed to the unique value of feet on the street. That’s why we now have reporting staff working around the clock. That’s why we are carving reporting shifts out of what used to be dedicated page production shifts. That’s why when big news breaks, we deploy squads of journalists.
     Through consolidation and partnerships and other transformative efforts, our company has shed millions upon millions of dollars in traditional costs. Our goal is to sustain the staff levels currently in place in the newsroom and transition hours of labor from print efforts toward digital efforts.
     In York, we have scores of journalists who are committed to covering York County. Our No. 1 local news competitor is a TV station that commits one full-time reporter to York County.
     We believe deeply that our mission revolves around local, local, local. No competitor should ever be able to beat us on that. All due respect to The New York Times, but they will never cover York County with the focus, passion or understanding that we do.
     We also believe deeply that mobile is the platform to bank on. Toward that end, we launched two apps early on — one for our news site and one for our regional high school sports site. Both do significantly better than industry standards as far as new downloads and total page views. We are working locally and nationally to develop new, specialty apps.
     And because we are confident that what we offer has unique value, we charge for access to most of what we offer online. We haven’t gotten rich by doing this, but we have generated tens of thousands of dollars that otherwise would have been left on the table, and we have continued to grow traffic.
     We share our thoughts on these efforts with our readers in many ways, most notably through YDR Insider, a blog dedicated to exposing the newsroom process to the public. We also take our message out to the public several times a week through the NewsVroom project.
     The York Daily Record is, first and foremost, a necessary service to this community. Our journalists are passionate about that role and are excited to talk to people about how we are changing to serve them better. And while some changes are unpopular or uncomfortable, the public is responding positively to our approach. They understand that we cannot be what we once were — that we must transform or fade away.
     We got an early jump on transformation, and we are trying to keep our feet on the accelerator of change. That, we know, is why we now serve more readers, more often and in more ways than ever before.

Randy Parker
Managing Editor
York Daily Record/Sunday News