What I’ve been doing as the Register’s digital MacGyver

MacGyver's Multitool
Photo of MacGyver’s Multitool by Charles Williams licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I rejoined the Orange County Register two months ago, my job description was a bit nebulous. Since then, editor Rob Curley  has made it clear that I am the Register’s digital MacGyver. Angus Macgyver, the lead character of a TV series of the same name, turned everyday objects into tools that he used to escape from life-threatening predicaments.

My tasks haven’t been that harrowing, but I have definitely used limited resources to get some things done. I’ve also been taking care of a bunch of smaller tasks that someone has to handle.

Here is a short laundry list of what I’ve been doing:

  • I’ve used a whole lot of Javascript to create two special pages that would normally not be possible within the Register’s content management system: OC’s 100 Most Influential and the Register Holiday Hub.
  • I’ve created bookmarklets that lets our digital team click one button to carry out tasks that normally require selecting text, copying it, finding and replacing, and more copying and pasting.
  • I’ve tapped into the Chartbeat API to create an internal page that shows the staff just the information we use from that service
  • I’ve improved the stability of six newsroom monitors that are display stats, the Register website, and page layouts.
  • I’ve edited a few small blog posts and short articles.
  • I’ve submitted and tracked many IT tickets related to changes to website and email changes
  • I’ve made sure people moving into and around the newsroom have their phones set up and equipment moved.
  • I’ve provided a small amount of training about social media and posting graphics online.


I’ve accepted a position at the Register

Old shirt with OCRegister.com logo
I’ve dusted off an old Register shirt with a logo that once promoted the company’s digital presence.

Today, I start working at the Orange County Register again.

This might come as a surprise to some, since I revived this blog in July with a post about why I left newspapers, and followed that up with an explanation of why I stopped working for a newspaper company.

There are many reasons for my return, but this is the biggest one: they asked me to return. I’m not saying that all they had to do was ask. I’m saying that there has to be a reason that they reached out to me.

You see, many incredibly talented journalists left the company in June. Most of them are better “print journalists” than I’ll ever be. My forte has always been digital. To the best of my knowledge, the Register hasn’t reached out to any of my incredible colleagues. That the company is asking a digital specialist to return says to me that they are making a shift to bolster their presence online, and hopefully on mobile and social platforms.

I’m joining with a strange title of Newsroom Operations, and will be helping journalists to get their jobs done. I will be troubleshooting, filling one of the duties that a previous Register worker left vacant when he recently left the company.

Wait? So it sounds like I’m a newsroom IT guy, and the reason they reached out to me is because they needed a newsroom IT guy. It could be that simple, but I think there’s something more afoot. The Register is still full of talented individuals, some of whom could easily fill the shoes of the position described. The Register is experienced in shuffling newsroom staff to fill holes. They know how to make do and they have the people to do it.

They didn’t have to ask me to come back, they chose to reach out to me. This newspaper company just might be prepping for digital.

I’m going back to help amazing journalists. I can only imagine how rough things have been since the staff has had to pick up the slack left by my friends and I when we left almost five months ago. I’m going back to help my coworkers make the best use of their tools. I’m going back to help make their work easier. If you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I’m going back to bring a little levity and to help make some good people smile.

So, what do you think? Good move? Bad move? Leave a comment or talk with me on Twitter @ksablan.

I wanted to make these sites

I come up with crazy ideas all the time, and I occasionally snatch up domain names in case I have time to actually work on those ideas. Within the last few months, I’ve let these domains expire. Feel free to register them yourself and/or at least take the ideas and run with them.

  • agrg8.com would have been a Delicious-like bookmarking site for social sites. This came from my need to quickly find old tweets.
  • reacht.com would have estimated the reach of an individual tweet. It would have taken into account the number of your followers who were active around the time you sent a tweet, how many people they follow (assuming that the more they follow, the less likely they saw your tweet), the number of retweets and who and when those retweets happened.
  • rlbig.com would have been a gallery of “real big” pictures found on Flickr, Twitpic, and other social-photo sites. This was obviously inspired by Boston’s big picture blog.
  • toupons.com would have been Twitter coupons. Since there are about 15 gazillion ideas like this running around, I actually developed lots of details for this one. Still have most of that documentation, but curious about what Twitter’s official advertising solution will be.
  • tw8r.com would have scheduled tweets. I use Hootsuite, and occasionally SocialOomph to do this, but I hoped to address a few unmet needs. Those needs just aren’t important enough.
  • tweiv.com was a really bad name for a service that would act as a sieve for Twitter. Now, I have the somewhat related storystreamr.com.

Video: Evolution of Orange County media

OC Insight is a half-hour talk show focusing on issues impacting Orange County. It is the product of a partnership between California State University, Fullerton and KCET. In November, I was part of a (“Someone must have messed up. I don’t belong on stage with veterans Jeff Rowe and Jean Pasco!”) three-person panel on an episode called “The Orange County Media Evolution.”

I bit of background: I was initially contacted to be the “experienced blogger and new media practitioner.” By the day of the shoot, things had changed and the representative for the Orange County Register was no longer on the panel. I tried my best to shift gears to be “old media transitioning into new.”

Kudos to OC Insight for making this video available for embedding and for Christopher Bugbee for tracking me down on Twitter. Make sure to visit the show’s web site for a full list of episodes.

By the way, this is my television debut, and this show is in no way affiliated to The Kevin Sablan Show.