There’s a very human tendency to overprepare for the challenges that await us, only to realize later on that some of that overpreparation may have been weighing us down.
If you’ve ever prepped for a long hike, you probably packed at least a few things that you never once touched. You may have even dumped it somewhere along the way — in a nature-friendly way, of course — to spare you from having to carry it. (I’ve never done this before and I’m almost certainly confusing Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” with personal memory).
This pandemic and its insidious way of shortening days but lengthening work hours has similarly forced me to cast off many journalism tools I once thought I would need. As weeks turned to months and months turned to a year, I left so many “nice-to-haves” and “someday-I’ll-uses” strewn across the digital world and cast out of my mind.
My resulting toolkit is lean, mean and utilitarian. I’ll share a few of the survivors below, minus the ones you know and maybe even loathe at this point (Slack and Zoom, I’m looking at you).
Knowing what our audience needed to know was imperative in the nascent days of the pandemic. By keeping an eye on Google Trends, Al Tompkins (who launched the Covering COVID-19 newsletter just before the pandemic became official) was able to know and provide guidance for the big questions that people had about the virus.
That gave us a “what,” but didn’t answer some of our questions about who, where and when. Parse.ly Currents held some of that information, including the topics that people in various locations were most interested in and when they were reading the news (the latter has shifted a lot in the last year). Ultimately, since Poynter’s audience isn’t location-specific, much of it wasn’t terribly useful for us, but it was interesting to watch the shift.
With so much going on, I didn’t have much time to browse for news like I usually would, so I came to rely on Nuzzel as a quick catch-up. The tool shows you the top news stories among the people you follow on Facebook and Twitter. By switching between my Twitter account (local and more personalized to my interests) and Poynter’s Twitter account (which mainly follows media industry people), I was able to get a pretty good bead on what had happened while I was away from the news.
Our audience has grown in the past year or so, and so has the volume of spam our site has received (if I had a dollar for every Russian-language comment about cryptocurrency, I might actually have enough to afford one Bitcoin). That meant I sometimes missed a useful comment and, worst of all, a request for a correction or clarification. VettNews has helped us manage the latter. A simple but unmissable “Request a correction” button that now appears at the bottom of our articles guides readers through a short set of questions that helps us get it right. Requests pop up in a special Slack channel that I won’t miss (they…