Thursday, July 15, 2010

IR's Martin Kidston hired by Montana Democrats

According to a mostly-blank e-mail I received today, Helena Independent Record outdoors editor Martin J. Kidston is leaving the newspaper to take a job as communications director for the Montana Democratic Party.

According to the Helena rumor mill, Attorney General Steve Bullock has also hired a prominent Montana journalist in his communications office. Stay tuned for that announcement in the coming days or week.

It's not uncommon for journalists to go to work for politicians, political parties, or government agencies. For instance, longtime Associated Press statehouse reporter Bob Anez left the AP in 2005 to take a job as communications director for the Department of Corrections. Terri Knapp, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch's spokeswoman, quit her job at Montana's News Station in 2008 to go to work for then-Superintended of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch. She now heads McCulloch's press office in the Secretary of State's office.

Newspapers across the state continue to struggle financially and journalists are constantly faced with uncertain futures. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see more reporters leave the newsroom for communications jobs in the public and private sector.

UPDATE: Here's the full press release from the Montana Democratic Party:

HELENA--Gearing up for the November elections and setting its sights on 2012, the Montana Democratic Party has hired reporter and Marine Corps veteran Martin Kidston to lead its communications team. Kidston will work from Helena and begins next week.

A graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula, Kidston has spent the last 11 years at the Helena Independent Record. His most recent beats included the Montana military and the northern U.S. border.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Democratic Party,” Kidston said Tuesday. “I look forward to sharing the Party's message and working hard to improve the lives of everyday Montanans. I’ve seen the Party’s accomplishments first-hand and I’m eager to help build on its successes across the state.”

Born in Colorado, Kidston served six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He moved to Missoula in 1994 to attend college and graduated in 1997 with a degree in English and a minor in philosophy.

During his tenure as a reporter, Kidston traveled widely covering Montana’s military training and the state’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan. He toured both the northern and southern U.S. borders, and he recently travelled to Guatemala with the Helena Diocese to report on the Catholic mission in Santo Tomas.

Kidston is also the author of three books, including “Cromwell Dixon: A Boy and His Plane,” and “From Poplar to Papua: Montana’s 163rd Infantry Regiment in World War II.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tribune becomes first Montana newspaper to employ DocumentCloud technology

document cloud snip
I wrote in the Great Falls Tribune today about about how high level officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior were involved lengthy discussions surrounding possible new national monument designations for Montana and other western states.
Interior officials, including Secretary Ken Salazar, continue to say that talk of a new national monument in Montana is nothing more than “false rumors,” but as 383 pages of Interior e-mails show, there’s more to the story than mere “rumors.”
In reporting this story I utilized a new tool I learned about at last month’s Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas.
You can see that new tool in action on the Tribune’s website.
Here are the 383 pages of e-mails.
Here is the leaked memo.
DocumentCloud allows journalists to upload massive amounts of digital documents into a simple, easy to navigate “workspace,” and then share those documents with readers.
While the digital age and the Internet have certainly made things a lot easier for investigative reporters in some respects, there are some downsides to technology, especially when it comes to obtaining and reviewing documents.
For instance, many documents that are made available in digital format are not searchable. Such was the case with the 383 pages of e-mails released by the Interior Department. They were scanned print-outs of the original e-mails.
That’s where Document Cloud comes in handy. Once the hudreds of pages e-mails were uploaded to DocumentCloud, built-in software went to work scanning non-searchable documents for text. Documents that were nothing more than a series of images are now translated into recognizable and searchable text.
DocumentCloud also allows users to make annotations right in the document. In the past I would print an entire .pdf document just so I could highlight passages and make notes in the margins. DocumentCloud lets me do that digitally. I can search, highlight and annotate documents all in one easy to use online program.
The best part is that when I’m ready to publish my story, I can share that document, including my annotations, with the reading public.
In the past, newspapers would sometimes include a link to a downloadable version of a document referenced in a story. But as most of you know, some documents can be huge. The document containing the 383 pages of e-mails referenced in today’s story was somewhere on the order of 9.5 MB and would take a long time to download for many readers. But with DocumentCloud, we can share the document with our readers in an easy-to-use, searchable viewer that requires no downloading. In addition, the annotation feature allows us to point out especially relevant or important parts of the documents and specific passages referenced in the story.
This is the Tribune’s first run with DocumentCloud, but you should expect to see it more and more in the future. The program is still in the beta testing stages, so if you have any comments or suggestions on how the software might better serve readers, send me your comments and I’ll pass them along.
Do you have suggestions for documents journalists ought to be reviewing? Do you have access to newsworthy documents yourself? If so, drop me a note.
I’ll be out of the office until July 14, so the lowdown might be dark for a while.