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JobMinder 5.1 adds scheduling module  
Monday, November 13, 2000 | by
It's still known as the "Healy-Dealy" at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in honour of its creator, former Star Tribune tech wizard Mike Healy. But the newspaper photo assignment system Healy created has grown far beyond the simple FileMaker-based program he first implemented while still at the paper. Now called JobMinder, the just-released v5.1, from Healy's company Northern Lights DataSystems, adds both scheduling and integrated help modules among a long list of new features to the Mac and PC-compatible client/server system.

Some of the features of the new scheduling module, which enables the creation of a weekly schedule for both photographers and editors, include:

  • Pull down menus for Name, Position, Start Time, Shift Name, Shift Length, and Rotation.

  • Allows the administrator to modify schedules for one week while still keeping track of rotation positions.

  • Vacation and special projects can be scheduled in advance and will not be replaced in the process of automated schedule creation.

  • Weekly schedules can be duplicated from week to week and then modified to show individual changes.

  • Individual schedules can be duplicated from week to week.

  • Weekly schedule can be printed for posting.

Other new features include:

  • Spell-checking of the contents of the Assignment Summary and Caption fields.

  • Checking for overlapping assignments for photographers. The amount of time between assignments is customizable by the administrator.

  • Link to Photo button - Allows the caption writer to link the caption with the correct photo. Opens a dialog box to choose the photo to link with the caption and then sends the photo to the input folder.

  • IPTC text file - A text file with IPTC and custom JobMinder information is automatically generated with each request. Using this file in conjunction with Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits, the information from JobMinder can be added to all photos being copied from a camera storage card to either a local drive, networked volume or even DiskShark. Photographers can also take the IPTC files along, or receive them via e-mail, for use on the road.

  • Ability to e-mail an assignment to a photographer or page a photographer with an assignment.

  • Ability for editors to deny a request.

  • Single-click search for requests to be published the next day.

  • Daily budget shows slug, summary, assignment number and status.

  • Three custom fields These text fields are customizable by the administrator.
  • Display of creation date and time.

  • Fields for reporter e-mail address and phone.

  • Space for multiple contact names and phone numbers.

  • Contact e-mail address field.
  • Assignment status field pending review, approved, denied and by whom.

  • Edited By field shows name of editor that reviews photos after assignment is shot.

  • Help module: Users can quickly access a help file from anywhere in the system. The file shows tips that are related to the main help topic to provide a fuller understanding of features.

A Northern Lights DataSystems press release quotes an enthusiastic Todd Moore, photo boss at The Indianapolis Star, the beta site for v5.1:

We're thrilled with the JobMinder (5.1) upgrade. There are several features we latched on to very quickly:

  • The handy spell-check buttons in the assignment summary and caption fields are lifesavers.

  • The ability to email or page a photographer with a late-breaking assignment really helps the photo assignments editor manage our daily workflow, not to mention the automatic email responses reporters get when an assignment they've requested gets approved.

  • The ability to have the system automatically page me when something goes wrong lets me start working on a fix sooner--often even before the user even knows there is a problem.

Since we started using the system (JobMinder 2.5) in February 1999, we've put in about 30,000 requests and 50,000 captions. We can search any or all of it in just a couple of seconds, and, because it's so robust, we don't bother putting caption information on raw digital camera out-takes. We just search JobMinder instead, and the hits are linked to dates that point us to the raw camera file. (But I am anxious for the pending integration with Photo Mechanic--that will just make things that much better and more cross-referenced!)

Reporters and editors in the newsroom can go to one of 270 PCs and simply type "jm" in a web browser window and they're immediately on the photo assignments system. We use this feature extensively to generate assignment requests and to manage submitted/handout photo captioning. The information for handout photos is entered-usually by a word editor - into JobMinder and the JM caption number is passed along to the picture desk for final approval and then to the toning department along with the photo. Pre-press tones the image and drops a press-ready photo, with caption, into our archive system, simply by giving the photo a slug and caption number and putting it into the watch folder.

Information is only typed once which minimizes the chance of error, and furthermore, the information is typed by someone other than a photo editor so it's a real time-saver for the picture desk. Because there is an electronic trail we can always back-track to determine the status of a photo.

JobMinder has become so much a part of our culture here at The Star that it ranks right up there with our CCI Pagination system, Photoshop and Camera Bits software as the tools we use to get the paper out.

JobMinder is available in Enterprise, Standard and Basic versions. For information on pricing, contact John Swart at 877-718-0489 or A PDF on the JobMinder web site describes the v5.1 upgrade in detail, including the hardware required to run it.

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