Planning pipers and partridges: why it isn’t just for Christmas

‘I’ve got a bagpiper bloke on the phone who says someone from here’s just rung him’ was my shout-out to the newsroom I was in yesterday.

The musician whose call I had intercepted turned out to be part of an elaborately planned initiative to create that paper’s own regional 12 days of Christmas.

The news editor was largely spending the day planning the paper’s Christmas and New Year coverage, plotting potential splashes and features to tide him over the fallow festive period.

It all seemed to be going fairly well, particularly the 12 days line-up, which was virtually complete.

When I was news editor of a daily paper, I used to take a reporter off the diary from mid-November to work exclusively on Christmas and New Year content.

I charted splashes, p3 specials, spreads and analysis over a fortnight, leaving me confident that we could fill papers with reasonably decent fare even when absolutely nothing was happening.

The irony was that we were probably serving up some of the strongest human interest stories of the year at a time when sales were at their lowest.

But it’s often occurred to me that we ought to keep that advance planning process going throughout the year.

Then it was all about print.

Now better planning could ensure we’ve always got new web content, that evergreen lists and guides are up to date, and help us set our own local agenda.

We’ve also now got better access to national news diaries through sites such as Foresight, and better software to organise our planning.

Yes, it takes time to begin with.

But keeping the Christmas spirit of advance planning alive into the New Year could save a lot of heartache and hassle as well.

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