Sunday, February 14, 2010

We will get the new 'news ecology' right

The following was written for publication in The Record.

I have been involved in the Web side of the newspaper business in one way or another for a little more than a decade. My direct involvement started when I was named online manager of a Gannett newspaper and asked to produce that organization’s first Web site, continuing through last spring when a newspaper online site I oversaw in another company was recognized as the best community Web site in the nation by a trade organization.

And I have never been more energized about a newspaper company’s future digitally as I was when I recently met our company’s brand new CEO, John Paton, on his first day of work.

Paton joins the Journal Register Company from impreMedia LLC, a company he co-founded in 2003. impreMedia has evolved into the top news and information company in online and print serving the U.S. Hispanic community. In 2009, Editor & Publisher magazine recognized Paton for transforming what was a legacy news media organization into a modern multi-platform company by naming him "Publisher of the Year." He was also named a "Media All-Star" by AdWeek magazine's Marketing y Medios.

I can see why our new boss has received media attention when you consider the pronouncements he made on his first day on the job:

  • Every reporter in our company will have a point-and-shoot, high-definition video camera within 30 days. The breadth and depth of our video coverage will expand exponentially as a company over the coming months.
  • JRC will upgrade and enhance its information technology infrastructure so that our employees can fully participate in the new news ecology (more on that later).
  • The company is establishing Community Journalism Media Labs immediately in six of its communities. At all of our newspapers we are going to bring the outside world in to our company and work with entrepreneurial journalists. “We will establish both content and sales arrangements with these local entrepreneurs to increase our coverage, audience and sales to our mutual benefit,” he said.

Elements of the new “news ecology” include empowerment by media companies of citizen journalists to help them report through their own eyes what is going on in their communities; a news cycle that is mobile-first in news delivery; and one where all technologies are employed to give consumers what they want, how they want it, when they want it.

None of this represents an abandonment of our print products. In fact, this effort will enhance our newspapers as we refocus our resources to use newsprint to present more compelling journalism.

We will communicate more on these developments over the course of the spring as they evolve. But a few hints of what is to come: We will look for more “citizen journalists” to participate in our news gathering, much like the bloggers and community columnists we have now. We will present new marketing opportunities to the business community. We will launch new products and communication channels. And we will look for institutional partners to jointly develop content and business opportunities. But please, don’t wait for our announcements; if you have ideas or questions please contact me at

Earlier this week there was a Local Online Advertising Conference attended by 400 media professionals in New York. Jeff Jarvis, author of the book “What Would Google Do?” and an associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism, was the opening speaker. He reportedly stopped his presentation at one point to tell the audience to watch John Paton and the Journal Register Company over the coming months. He said, “Follow this company; they are going to get this right”.

We will “get it right”. And it is going to exciting for the communities we serve.

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