Thursday, May 20, 2010

Parent company of this newspaper produces web sites and newspapers using free tools

The parent company of this newspaper - the Journal Register Company - announced today it successfully produced two websites and newspapers – one daily and one weekly - using only free web-based tools.

The participating newspapers were The News-Herald in Lake County, Ohio and the Perkasie News-Herald in Perkasie, Pa.

The company’s Ben Franklin Project, announced April 21 by CEO John Paton, challenged the legacy newsgathering process and proprietary computer system model – while focusing on the company’s digital-first model. The websites and newspapers involved in the project were produced – from story assignment and advertising design through publication – utilizing free tools available online. The employees were given 30 days to meet that challenge and this week they succeeded.

Highlights of the project:
- The papers' newsrooms solicited story ideas and contributions through social media tools including Facebook and Twitter.
- Residents of one community shared their views on the county’s most dangerous roadway intersections and the newsroom staff compared those submissions with data from police reports. The audience, using Journal Register Company’s community portal partner SeeClickFix, also reported blighted properties – ranging from fields in need of mowing to a house that has been under construction for 10 years – that were included in newsroom reports. Residents in another community submitted questions for local officials as part of reports on the local pay-as-you-throw trash system and the community’s electric supplier contract.
- Advertising designers used free, web-based tools to design online and print advertisements, and copy editors and designers utilized a desktop publishing system available free online.

"Taking a digital first, print last approach motivates journalists to tap into readers before they even start reporting," said a blogger for the Poynter Institute of Media Studies, Mallary Jean Tenore, reporting on the project.

“We have taught ourselves the power of open source journalism by involving our communities," Paton said in a news release, "and we have showed the industry a way to a much more effective business model by bypassing costly legacy media proprietary systems and harnessing the power of the web.”

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