I've sent out my first round of emails to the following publishers:
‧ Bethany Republican-Clipper (Kathy Conger)
‧ Branson Tri-Lakes News (Mandy Farrow)
‧ Cameron Citizen-Observer (Tina Svoboda)
‧ Cuba Free Press / Star-Crawford Mirror (Rob Viehman)
‧ Eldon Advertiser / Hermitage Index / Tipton Times (Trevor Vernon)
‧ Excelsior Springs Standard / Richmond News (Sharon Donat)
‧ Houston Herald (Brad Gentry)
‧ Moberly Monitor-Index / Mexico Ledger (Tim Schmidt)
‧ Monroe | Ralls (Robin Gregg)
‧ Nodaway News Leader (Kay Wilson)
‧ Phelps County Focus / Salem News (Donald Dodd)
‧ Shelbina Weekly (Thad Requet)
‧ Washington Missourian (Tricia Miller)
In the time it took me to write this note, I've already gotten affirmative replies from the Bethany Republican-Clipper and the Eldon Advertiser, and I'm scheduling times now. As mentioned below, I'm unable to travel for any interviews until next Thursday, but all replies so far have been open-ended on time, so I think that'll be all right.
Brian and I have been working on my interview outline and questions, as mentioned in the previous note. I'm also labeling each question with the RQ it addresses. I've provided a condensed outline below; please let me know if you have any feedback.
A snag we're running into: I currently have an incomplete grade in thesis seminar from last semester. I actually had everything turned in on time, so I'm not sure why this is — but I'm getting in contact with Caryl Cooper, who taught the class remotely, to get this figured out. We're operating as normal in the meantime, since I'm still enrolled in JOURN 8090 this semester.
One additional update: For logistical and personnel reasons, I've decided to quit the choir I've been in at Mizzou. This reopens my Tuesdays and Thursdays for travel (the class was T/Th 12:15–1:45, which is totally inconvenient for getting around Missouri during business hours).
TL;DR: Getting interviews scheduled and questions solidified. There's an administrative issue with my courses, but I'm figuring out why the issue is there and resolving it.
REQUESTED ACTION ITEMS: Read outline below, provide any feedback.
‧ How long have you been at this publication? How did you get here? What does the arc of your career look like?
‧ What does your role look like in practice? How are you involved in the day-to-day operations?
‧ How about the rest of the newsroom? What does that group look like, role-wise? Is this typical? Ideal?
‧ How do you approach long-term strategy (business, journalism, etc.)? Are those discussions you have a lot? Who’s involved in those discussions?
    ‧ How does your newsroom make money?
‧ What goals do you have for your newsroom? How do you define success in your newsroom?
    ‧ Are these your personal goals, or are they broader goals for the newsroom as a whole?
    ‧ How do you communicate these values to the newsroom?
    ‧ Do you feel you’re meeting these goals? If so, how? If not, what challenges are you facing?
‧ Does every story use visuals? (Should they?)
‧ Who’s making the pictures? Who’s receiving, handling, quality checking handouts?
‧ How do you use visuals in print? Online? Social media? Other?
‧ Are there any recent examples of your publication using visuals particularly well?
‧ I asked earlier how you define success in your newsroom. What about when it comes to visuals specifically? What goals do you have for your publication in that regard?
    ‧ Are these your personal goals, or are they broader goals for the newsroom as a whole?
    ‧ How do you communicate these values to the newsroom?
    ‧ Do you feel you’re meeting these goals? If so, how? If not, what challenges are you facing?
‧ Are there any other challenges your newsroom faces that we haven’t yet discussed?
‧ Is there anything else about your newsroom you feel I should know that we haven't yet discussed?

I'm making progress! Hallelujah!
My meeting with Brian today was very productive. We hadn't had a chance to meet since Jan. 18, during which he helped me identify some good potential papers to interview. Today, we honed in a bit on that list — but, more importantly, we read over my recruitment email and interview questions and cleaned them up significantly.
My email is now much more conversational in tone while still hitting the necessary points. I've attached it below, and I'd love if y'all could give it a read. I'll be finalizing the first round of people I'm reaching out to tomorrow, and I'll be scheduling the emails for Monday morning so it'll be the first thing in people's inboxes for the new week.
This weekend, after scheduling those emails, I'll be revising my question outline as discussed with Brian. I've kind of assumed a lot of the necessary questions for my RQs will be addressed over the course of the interview — that's why I have a "just in case" section at the end of my outline. But that section has a lot of relevant information in it, so I need to be sure I'm asking those concretely.
In order to better address my RQs, I'll be deleting, adding, and rearranging some of my questions and sections. For example, I plan to ask, "How do you define success in your newsroom?" near the start of the interview, and the goal of that is to see if that answer lines up with how they treat visuals in their newsrooms. So we realized it'd be best for me to directly ask at the end of the interview, "Earlier I asked how you define success in your newsroom. How would you answer that from a visual perspective?" (or something along these lines). By calling back to the earlier question — and by asking it after we've discussed their visuals strategy — it can act as an opportunity for them to reflect on the topics we've covered. It also gives me more hard evidence to draw conclusions about what they value in their newsroom vs. what they value in visuals.
Brian and I have shifted our weekly meeting to Monday afternoons, so I should have another field note for you near the start of the coming week. I'll be preoccupied personally from Thursday the 9th to Wednesday the 15th (first hosting a visitor, then traveling to my parents'), so I won't be able to conduct interviews during that time — but hopefully I can schedule and field responses during that week.
TL;DR: Revised recruitment email, honed in on first round of recipients, scheduling emails for Monday morning. Revising interview guide / questions. Feeling far more steady now.
REQUESTED ACTION ITEMS: Read email below, provide any feedback.
My name is Madi Winfield, and I'm a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. I'm conducting a research study about how weekly community newspapers use photography in their day-to-day and long-term strategy. I'll be traveling around Missouri talking face-to-face to newsroom leaders, and I was hoping you'd be up to participate.
If you're interested, I'd love to have a 60- to 90-minute discussion with you about [insert publication name]. This would be an on-the-record interview for my masters thesis, which has the potential to be published externally; however, I don't intend on asking you for any confidential information.
If you have any questions or would like to participate, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

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