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Nothing to See Here: What’s With the Buzz About The Atlantic and Deseret News Collaborating?

atlanticdeseretcollabBy now, you’ve probably read about the ‘odd couple‘ collaboration between The Atlantic and Deseret News. If not, I’ll sum up the buzz: a Mormon owned metro daily and the monthly magazine owned by a rich guy teamed up for a four part series on the changing role of fatherhood in the country. Or, the less interesting version: two print institutions (both share mid-19th century birthdays), revitalizing themselves and succeeding in the digital landscape teamed up to do good journalism.

Yawn, right? I chatted with Paul Edwards, editor of the Deseret News, and tried to get him to dish about the ‘nitty gritty’ of putting the series together and the perils of collaborating with a publication that was geographically and ideologically different from your own.

He says:

 We all sat around a conference table at The Atlantic in D.C. for the better part of a day with whiteboards and sandwiches and talked about ‘what are the issues surrounding family stability’ and went from there to assign stories.

And get this — they used Word documents:

We each had different content management systems so we just decided at that level that is was easier to pass along Word documents and track changes…on our side, things got passed around quite a bit, for various reasons. Allison Pond edited the series, and I had a gentleman named Drew Clark work on it for a little bit. It was really between Eleanor Barkhorn, at the Atlantic and I, and that was the primary relationship back and forth. It largely stayed in house until we were essentially passing along pretty completed drafts.

No tussles? No fighting amongst parties or cliques?

Not really. Though they did drop two pieces — one about the resilience of children in ‘fragile families’ that the Deseret News published as a separate piece and one about courtship. But it was all mutual, once they realized that the series was no longer going to be about families, but fatherhood and how the role is changing in the country.

In sum? According to Edwards:

Both of us share a commitment to doing quality, data driven journalism and that I would hope is one of the lessons that comes out of this. That regardless of geographic or ideological [differences] the professional commitment to looking at the data that surround significant issues can produce something pretty interesting and that was sort of what we were trying to do with this as well. It wasn’t a stunt — it was a definite, substantive idea of good journalism to address a tough topic.

And traffic? “We got some good link traffic that I don’t think we would have had without the collaboration,” he says.

What did you think of the series on both of the sites? What publications and news orgs would you like to see collaborate on coverage of an issue?   

Photo via Buzzfeed.

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