Other Voices

Gustus: New beats, new structure for Star-Telegram

Lauren Gustus is editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Lauren Gustus is editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. rhailey@star-telegram.com

There’s a lot of competition for our time these days.

We spend five hours a day on our phones. Anything we want is literally at our fingertips, from our Netflix subscription to live Rangers broadcasts to Facebook.

The internet is a game changer for many organizations. Ours included. More people in North Texas now read the Star-Telegram online and on their phones than they do in print. And more people are reading online every month.

We know how long you spend with a story, what stories you’re reading and what stories you aren’t, whether you’re on your phones or your laptop.

You tell us what you like and don’t like in daily letters and calls. You also give us feedback when you decide to spend time with a story — or not.

Recently readers connected with reporter Bill Hanna’s piece on Six Flags’ decision to fly only the U.S. flag. Other stories that have resonated include what we can and cannot do on our phones while driving (no more texting) and exclusive news on the future of suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The way we approach, tell and share our stories must evolve along with your consumption habits if we are to be a strong community partner in the years to come.

Not only do we have to be more sophisticated with respect to new tools that help determine what stories to tell, we also must think about how you are consuming them. For example, we’ve launched three newsletters ahead of the fall football season — one each for college and pro football and one for high school sports. Next week we’ll debut a monthly podcast called “Out of the Cold” that tells the stories of unsolved crimes in North Texas.

Not every story is a 500-word piece that appears in print with headline and photo. Some are better told through video. Or in a podcast.

I’m writing today to share more about how we’re changing as we look to give you relevant, essential journalism in 2017 and beyond. I intend to stay in good touch, writing as appropriate.

Here you’ll find an overview of new teams and new beats structured to better serve you — whether you find us in the printed paper or on Facebook.

Our goal is not to be an inch deep and a mile wide — which is neither wise nor feasible — but to report on issues and matters of critical interest to you and to our future success as a community.

Accountability journalism serves as the heartbeat of any news organization. We can do more of it and we can do it better. We’ve created a team that will include a new watchdog reporter, plus two others: An enterprise reporter who is focused not just on our problems but also on surfacing solutions, and our city reporter, who will see her beat through a new lens by exploring how government directly affects your life.

If you’ve been caught on I-35W or seen the development in southwest Fort Worth you know we’re growing at a rapid clip. More than 50 people move to Fort Worth every day. The Changing Tarrant team will work to explain how growth impacts you — from the cost of a new home to the time it takes you to get to work to how our cities are managing increased demand for services.

The Life team will be your day-to-day guide. It will report on new restaurants, arts and entertainment offerings and what lifestyle trends are picking up steam in North Texas. We also have plans for it to grow in the months ahead.

We’ve added reporting resources in the realm of high school sports, where we’ll look at the cost of participating, who’s playing what sports and include additional explanatory work like the recent statewide salaries project. Also look for a new Texas Moneyball reporter to join us soon, covering the big business of sports in Texas.

An Engagement Editor will strengthen our relationship with the community with thoughtful daily opinion offerings, and through community conversations like the one earlier this month on how we can help those who live in the Las Vegas Trail area. We will welcome readers to take part in the formation of the editorial board’s viewpoints, or opinions, in the year to come. There are lots of changes ahead for this team — the goal is to work closely with community leaders and the public to find solutions to tough problems — and I look forward to sharing more soon.

We’ve added more digital muscle, onboarding an Audience Growth team that’s responsible for our approach on social media, from FacebookLive video to Instagram takeovers. This month we’ll welcome more video and breaking news reporters.

Find a link to our new staff page here, which will be updated as new hires join us.

While we are adding in many places, we also must stop doing some of the things we’ve always done, to create beats and a structure focused on relevant and essential reporting.

For example, we no longer have reporters dedicated solely to road construction or the airline industry. Our Changing Tarrant team will report on both topics — just not exclusively.

Beats are focused on impacts to you, our readers. We will be nimble and shift as needed.

I see great potential in our organization and thank the many of you who have shared your support for your hometown paper. We live here. Star-Telegram reporters and photographers are your neighbors and friends — and we care deeply about our North Texas community.

That doesn’t change. And neither does the one critical job for this news organization: We will seek to improve the lives of those who make North Texas home through fair and consistent reporting, regardless of whether you find the story on our Facebook page or page 1A.

We want to give you a reason to return to the Star-Telegram every day. Please share your thoughts, suggestions and tips with me at lgustus@star-telegram.com.

Thanks for reading.