The Hannibal Courier-Post (Hannibal, MO)

About this entry: “Like many small newsrooms, the Courier-Post faced a time and manpower shortage. The editor was not only the editor, but the copy editor, webmaster, page designer, and, at times, the obituary clerk.

There is no shortage of ideas at the Courier-Post, just the time to accomplish them all. Considering where the Courier-Post started in 2015, tremendous change has already been accomplished with even greater ideas on the horizon.

We faced a community that wasn’t coming to the Courier-Post for news. The newspaper hadn’t done the job it needed to do prior to 2015. The staff has accepted overwhelming compliments from members in the community about the changes that have taken place. Many feel that they have gotten their community newspaper back.”

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Read some of Courier-Post’s in-depth reporting online: Stopping drugs in NEMO, Part 1 and Part 2; Scores mostly improve for Hannibal schools on annual evaluations, Data-driven decisions paying dividends at Hannibal Middle School

Publisher: Mike Murphy
Editor: Eric Dundon
Follow The Hannibal Courier-Post on Facebook and Twitter

The Hannibal Courier-Post is to be congratulated for heart, hustle, and a dizzying array of meaningful reporting. The productivity for the size of its staff is truly commendable. The Courier-Post exhibits strong editing and writing with compelling story ideas that go far beyond everyday reporting.

Were there any structural changes made to your newsroom in 2015? Why?

• In February 2015, the Courier-Post welcomed a new editor and part-time (now full-time) reporter. Almost immediately, an unofficial beat system was implemented. In prior years, reporter assignments were a free-for-all. Now, one reporter focuses on city and county government, education and environment, a second reporter focuses on crime and courts, in-depth news and features while another part-time reporter pursues arts, entertainment, and events. This system has greatly enhanced the organization and planning of the Courier-Post newsroom.

• The physical layout of the newsroom changed. In 2014, the space was spread out, unorganized and cluttered with extraneous furniture, unneeded documents and flotsam and jetsam.

The newsroom underwent a complete overhaul, with everything unnecessary removed from the space. Reporters’ desks were positioned closer to one another to encourage discussion about events and communication about the day’s issue. By the year’s end, the communication of the entire editorial department was much improved.

What did you do to engage audience with social media work?

The first thing the Courier-Post needed to do in 2015 was to more regularly produce social work. The Facebook account was nearly dormant and Twitter wasn’t regularly updated.

The Courier-Post introduced a new social media policy in February that had the paper going from 1-2 Facebook posts per week to 5-6 per day immediately. Posts to Facebook were written in a conversational tone, but also included links to the website, as well as standalone photos. For many photo galleries on hannibal.net, staff created “mini galleries” on Facebook to encourage readers to visit the website for more photos.

For a time, the Courier-Post posted a 3-day calendar, encouraging visitors to submit their own events using the comments section. Breaking news was finally treated as such using Facebook and Twitter. For example, raw video of a press conference announcing the arrest of a murder suspect was posted natively to Facebook.

In July 2015, the Courier-Post created its own sports account, so area sports fans could get updates on prep sports as they happened in the area, as well as commentary on St. Louis-area sports.

The results in 2015 were astounding. In respect to Facebook, the Courier-Post’s Facebook page saw a 30 percent increase in audience size from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015. Early in 2016, the Courier-Post eclipsed the 4,000 “Like” mark. For a town of 17,000, that’s a good number.

Did your newspaper roll out any new products or pages in 2015? If so, how successful were they?

The Courier-Post, as a result of the print product redesign, introduced several new pages in 2015.

  • Because Hannibal enjoys a robust tourism season, the newspaper capitalized on the opportunity to appeal to one-time visitors by producing a weekly 4-page visitors guide that ran from May through September in the Friday edition. With a shopping/dining guide, 10 things to do in Hannibal listicle, walking map of our recommended journey through Hannibal, and things to know about your stay, we heard many comments from visitors about how the guide helped them during their stay. We delivered free copies of the Courier-Post Friday edition with the visitors guide to downtown Hannibal businesses, many of which in turned began advertising within the newspaper. Because of the first bit of success, the Courier-Post will redevelop a visitors guide for 2016 with built-in advertising positions.
  • The Courier-Post regularly printed history stories on the front page prior to 2015. While that content is interesting to readers, it did not warrant front-page placement. Instead, a history page was integrated beginning in May. Treated as a feature page, the history articles found an appropriate place in each weekend edition without taking up prime real estate on the front page.
  • The Courier-Post integrated a lifestyle page on B2 each Saturday, combining home and real estate content with a “Top 5” list generated by staff members.
  • Sensing a need for more nation content, the Courier-Post began running a Your Nation page in Thursday/Friday editions containing evergreen health, environment, politics, food, justice and social stories.

Honorable Mention: The Westford Eagle (Westford, MA)

About this entry: The award-winning Westford Eagle launched several new projects to further involve the community in the newspaper, made great strides in increasing its reach on social media and continued to produce high quality, impactful journalism.

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Read online: Falling gas prices boost Littleton and Westford economies

Publisher: Chuck Goodrich
Editor: Joyce Crane
Follow The Westford Eagle on Facebook and Twitter

Wow! The Westford Eagle, circulation 2,372, has a one person wrecking machine in the form of editor and reporter, Joyce Pellino Crane. Her work, and the contributions of one part timer and stringers showcase consistently high quality. Lucky Westford!

Honorable Mention: Marshfield Mariner (Marshfield, MA)

About this entry: Despite several staff changes, the Marshfield Mariner continued to push itself to create interesting special projects, increase its reach on social media, expertly used digital tools and engaged with its community through impactful events. 

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Read online: From flooding to snow, storm hammers Marshfield

Publisher: Mark Olivieri
Editor: Kristi Funderbunk
Follow The Marshfield Mariner on Facebook and Twitter

Keep up the fine work, Marshfield Mariner. Strong photojournalism and a special focus on topics including the opiate epidemic and domestic violence highlight the staff’s commitment to excellence.