From Lord of the North to a Head on a Spike

If Game of Thrones has taught us anything, one day you’re the Lord of the North and the next day you’re the head on the spike, Jonathon Berlin, Graphics Editor at the Chicago Tribune, told listeners during his discussion “100 Mistakes We Made Last Year.” Berlin was unashamed of his graphics team’s mistakes. He and his humble staff gracefully carry on after defeat and treat each struggle as a lesson.

For instance, the staff changed the production timeline to get content up on their site during high traffic times early in the day. This adjustment backfired but taught them to think on their feet and ask themselves, what is doable in the next half and hour? “What can we get up now? And what can we iterate from there?” For a staff that is used to the culture of their working being done when they hit send, it’s an uphill battle to change the mentality toward a constantly evolving story. Using twitter to follow through stories and get feedback has helped to encourage this new attitude.

They learned to focus on utilitarian content before “special sauce” because that’s what their viewers were consistently looking for. Instead of flashy fun graphics, first and foremost they must focus on posting necessary logistics relevant for Chicago residences.

It has been an adjustment moving from producing content for print, to using energy for online only graphics. In one of Berlin’s favorite projects of the year they didn’t use any of the illustrations in print. This was shocking to him but made him ask important questions about their site’s identity.

With a tricky dated CMS limiting their potential, they have had to be resourceful and be okay with imperfection. They aren’t afraid to over do something until they have it just right. Berlin said the beauty of news is its is very repetitive.  He keeps ideas in his back pocket for the next opportunity rather than letting their lessons go to waste.