The Roanoke Times Timescast: One

(very)Late to the game as usual, I’m just now getting time to have a good look at The Roanoke Times video cast : The Timescast. A number of people have already commented on this. Lucas Grindley admitted to possibly being the only person not like it in response to Howard Owens giving it an award.

For me, the TimesCast is an elaborate teaser fest. It’s a lot of effort to repackage the day’s news with what should be witty repartee. Except, it’s rarely witty. So what’s left is a nice looking, and superficial, video project.

Owens response is pragmatic

For me, TimesCast isn’t funny or even witty. It’s goofy. Every time I pop over, usually just to link to it because I’m blogging about it, I get caught up watching it. It’s engaging. I can’t help myself. It has authentic personality. It is what works on the web. It is what people on the web seem to be saying they want.

That seems to be the angle they are going for according to The Times’ editor Michael Riley. As he says in a paper in the spring 2006 Nieman report (via Mindy)

Simply put, we need to reinvent newspapers. That’s what we’ve been trying to do in Roanoke during the past few years as we’ve merged our print and online content operations. Recently, we launched a funky and fun online video newscast each weekday, which is our way of embracing today the multimedia world of tomorrow.

But in embracing the technology the Times hasn’t just embraced its audience. As Seth Gitner, the multimedia editor of, told Stephanie Rose (a very neat site btw)*

it’s a way to embrace the newsroom as well. The TimesCast represents a part of a bigger organic transformation in the Roanoke Times newsroom, Gitner said. Reporters are now sent out on stories with audio recording equipment, and everyone is learning to understand the partnership between photographer and reporter to create audio slideshows using Soundslides. And this transition is necessary, as the online department is “very small shop,” consisting of only three people.

What has drawn me to the Timecast isn’t its style – goofy as it is – it’s the idea that a newspaper has really grasped the idea look at what else is happening online, not at its competitors, and come up with its own spin on it.

What has made me really warm to it is the idea of trying to work that back in to the newsroom. Whether it works or nor is another matter. But one thing is for sure. We need to experiment with these things.

*(Stephanie also has a nice critique of the Timescast )

The times has a Blog about the Timescast – 404

8 Replies to “The Roanoke Times Timescast: One”

  1. Hello Andy,

    Thanks for the compliment on my site. My full name is actually Stephanie Rosenblatt. I haven’t updated in a while (life in transition), but I will soon, and I’ll be sure to check out your posts from now on! Great job compiling all the information. As your excerpts from different people say, it’s goofy…took me a minute to catch on to, but it really is quite an entertaining way to watch the news. Cheers to Roanoke!

  2. “An entertaining way to watch news …” I like that.

    But entertaining in a real way, not the way TV has always tried to make news as entertainment — if you catch the my drift on the difference.

    And I like your observation, Andy, that Roanoke is looking at what else is going on online, not just at newspaper sites.

    Again, thanks for the link.

  3. Dwayne Yancey here, one of the AMEs in Roanoke — producing the TimesCast everyday is one of my duties. I’d just like to point out that the news on the TimesCast is never “old” news from that morning’s paper. One of our cardinal rules is to look forward, not backwards. Sometimes it is “new news” that has been posted on the site — and to that extent, yes, we do serve as a guide, or a tease, if you will — to the rest of the site. But many times it’s news that hasn’t been published, either online or in print. We usually strive for three news items and most days, we’re a mix, but it’s always new.

  4. Hi Dwayne.

    Sounds good to me. I don’t see too much of a problem with ‘old’ stories from the paper. One of the issues that a lot of the scpetics have about multimedia is how it fits in with the ‘core product’. Link backs and forwards to content offline as well as on makes for a joined up approach.

    As i said, thats the thing I like most about the approach, it tries to fit in to what happens across the publication but keeps an individual identity.

    I hope that “organic transformation” Seth talks about is happening.

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