Jim Alred

New Media Director, Rome News-Tribune

Rome, GA

[GA-E 0301]

In – good night – what was it? – 2004-2005 – at the Naples Daily News – I had been in journalism for a while at that point. I had been doing multimedia journalism for about six months. And a woman from Fort Myers made the final three of the “American Idol” contest. And when you make the final three of the “American Idol” contest you go home, and you get to perform in front of a crowd.

At that time, the editor of The [Naples] Daily News and the publisher weren’t real sure that video meant anything. And it was actually a story they had completely ignored about this girl. They basically said, you know, The Fort Myers News-Press had sent someone out to Hollywood to cover her whole thing, and they said in Naples – like we don’t care, even though she performed on Fifth Avenue South – a location, really, just four blocks from the newspaper.

I went up – Vonzell Soloman was the woman’s name. We didn’t get to interview her, but I got are performing at Fort Myers. Came back to the newspaper, posted it, and within about four hours the servers for Scripps Howard – Naples was a Scripps Howard newspaper, still is – are based in Knoxville, Tenn. – I got a call from Knoxville, and it was like: “What did you do?”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

“Our servers are about to go down. We’re gonna’ have to put you on a separate server just for traffic.”

Turns out that that The News Press didn’t have video of Vonzell Soloman. This was while Facebook was still around, but I think it was just for college kids – so it was almost before. And YouTube was in its infancy, but basically it became a viral video.

We had almost 55, 000 views and plays of the video in less than a day and a half.

And I walked – I got called into the editor’s office the next day. And he was like: “What happened?” And I said I told you this was big. And he said. “But more people saw that video than like read our newspaper.”

And I said, “Yes, you’re right.” I said, “We’re not always going to get that with every video, but if you ignore this storytelling medium you’re going to start ignoring a whole lot of people’s interests.”

If you can tell good stories in any medium you’re gonna’ be doing well, and I thought that was a moment where I convinced a lot of people that that was the case.