At our November 7 luncheon meeting Cindy McCurry-Ross, Florida editor of the USA Today Network, which includes The News-Press and the Naples Daily News and four other news sites in Florida, and Jigsha Desai, director of the South Florida Digital Optimization Team for the USA Today Network built upon the message of growth and change shared during the announcement of the Naples Press Club name change to Press Club of Southwest Florida. They affirmed their premise that journalism and media continue to evolve.
With the presentation titled, “Community Reflection, National Connection: The Power of Local Journalism and the Media,” Cindy stated that 60 local journalists are on the USA Today teams covering the news of Southwest Florida. Cindy took the opportunity to introduce Lauren Greenius, their newly hired investigative reporter.
In recent surveys, a majority of people now say they go to Facebook for their news.
“Facebook gets its news from the news outlets,” said Cindy. “We continue to rely on journalists and mainstream news organizations to report facts, with fact-checking a critical element to professional news.”
While Cindy used the term “hyper” local, she made it clear that news goes beyond the county line and city limits.
With USA Today Network, local stories can become national, and national stories can be localized. Cindy cited a number of examples including G-Force Protective Services, a national staffing company with headquarters in Florida which provides security guards for prisons, gated communities, night clubs and other locations. Starting with the Pulse night club shooter, who had been an employee of the company, reporters worked for two years uncovering facts about the criminal histories and ongoing safety issues related to many of the guards employed by the company. In another example, stories about reverse mortgages became localized with examples of how residents in our area have been affected. Finally, local reporters connected directly with individuals in the Bahamas impacted by Hurricane Dorian—hours after the devastating winds and flooding. News was then shared on the national network of USA Today newspapers through print and online stories.
Jigsha emphasized that the Naples Daily News and the News-Press are more than just newspapers. Their mission is to become Southwest Florida’s brand of choice for news information and advertising. The goal is to deliver what readers/subscribers want, when they want it.
They are using new and sophisticated story tracking tools such as Chartbeat, a system for content analytics and insights for digital publishing, to understand their audiences better. These real-time dashboards provide tools to help prioritize stories to follow and develop—a necessity with limited resources.
Cindy shared the current areas of focus. They include:
- Growth and development
- Arts and entertainment
- High school sports
- Election 2020
- Mental health
- Affordable housing
The lively Q & A included questions about monetizing online properties. While Cindy and Jigsha did not have clear insights into the financial future of newspapers and what we currently recognize as traditional media, they emphasized their commitment to reporting news with facts and fact-checking as a way to differentiate from opinion and other media.