This is the final post is a series outlining how The Austin Stone Story Team produces written stories. You can read the first five posts Background and Introduction, Leads and Assignments, Interviewing, Photography , and Writing and Editing to catch up to today’s post.
The final phase of the story cycle is publishing. When we reach this point the story is complete, the photos are selected and edited, and our editors have signed off on it. We only have a few more steps before we can send it out to our church and the world through the Story Team Weekly.
Every story we tell has the final approval of the person the story is about. Unlike standard journalism practice, we do not withhold the story from the subject before publication. In fact, we send them the final version before publication and ask them to fact-check it.
We generate a PDF of the story without pictures, and send it to the subject with the following email:
I wanted to thank you for letting The Austin Stone Story Team tell your story. Thank you for your heart and for your willingness to be vulnerable with this team and church body.
I have attached the final edit of your story, and I want you to read it and let us know, in an email reply, if you see any details or factual mistakes that need to be corrected.
We want to make sure we have all of the details correct before we publish it. We are not looking for grammar or style edits. We simply need you to check the details and facts like dates, locations, names, etc.
We are praying that God will use your story to encourage our church and everyone else who reads it. I am very excited by this story and how powerful it has already been for our team during the production process.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
One thing to note that may surprise you is that we do not ask for, or accept, suggested edits or revisions. We only ask the subject to identify any factual errors or mistakes. We do this to protect the work of our artists, and to ensure that their work is respected in the process. If a subject has an issue with the story beyond simple factual corrections, we will sit down and talk through their concerns with them. This is rare, but it does happen.
Upon receiving a response from the subject, we make factual corrections, if any were identified, and then move on to publishing.
Assembling the Story Team Weekly
We publish our stories in two locations: on The Austin Stone website and through the Story Team Weekly. Our website has a private Content Management System that we use to publish our stories and photos. We publish the story there first, and all links in the Weekly will send a reader to the story on this site.
We use MailChimp to distribute the Weekly, and we have preset templates to make the process easy. Each week we publish a main story in full and an excerpt from an archived story that links to the full story on The Austin Stone website.
For the main story, one of our staff members takes the PDF version of the story and adds it to the email, and we then add the photos to the email in the same locations as the version on the website. We select the next archive story on this list, choose an excerpt, and add that to the bottom of the email with one photo.
After that we send a test email to a couple people on staff to review and double check. We correct any formatting or other errors, and then schedule it to send on Sunday morning.
When the Weekly goes out on Sunday, the story is done. We’ll write tweets, post links to it on our Facebook page, and team members will share with family and friends.
It is incredibly rewarding for myself and the whole team to see a new story go out each week, particularly when we know how much time and work went into it over the previous six weeks.
Thank you for reading this series about how we publish the Story Team Weekly. If you have any questions or comments about something we covered, or if you are curious about something we didn’t mention, ask below in the comments and we’ll share our thoughts and experience.