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At Digital First, pop-up newsrooms take to the road

At Digital First, pop-up newsrooms take to the road

Digital First recognizes the importance of mobile in today’s news landscape.

Not the type of mobile that we wrote about last week, mind you; this kind is designed to pull into a high school parking lot equipped with lawn chairs and laptops just in time for the big game, sharing its WiFi and donuts with local bloggers.

Beginning this summer, residents of towns, suburbs and sprawling counties across the US are liable to stumble upon something resembling the above-described new media tailgate party – also known as a pop-up newsroom – at a local sporting event or community get-together.

The fully loaded newsmobile is just one of several crowdsourced ideas intended to place reporters face-to-face with the people for and about whom they write.

At the turn of 2012, Steve Buttry, the Director of Community Engagement and Social Media at Digital First, challenged all of the newsrooms under the company's umbrella to come up with fresh ideas for engaging with and serving their local communities, according to a post by Randy Parker, Managing Editor of the York Daily Record, on the YDR Insider blog.

In early May, Digital First published a press release announcing that it had selected 12 winning proposals whose community newsrooms projects would be realized. “We want all our newsrooms to engage their communities in multiple ways – on our websites, social media, blogs, text messages and print products, but also in person,” Buttry said in the press release.

In a recent interview with journalism.co.uk, Buttry added that the overarching aim of the projects would be to help non-journalists start their own blogs covering their neighbourhoods and interests, to increase the involvement of citizens in hyperlocal news coverage, and to send reporters deeper into their communities.

As such, it is unsurprising that four of the successful proposals involved ejecting reporters from their ink-stained towers, and allowing them to track their beats on the road.

The 12 community newsroom project winners announced thus far are as follows:

Four for the Road

1 - The York Daily Record is a newspaper that covers a 900-square-mile (2,330-square-kilometer) patch in south-central Pennsylvania. Its newsroom, located outside city limits, attracts sparse foot traffic. “And so we propose a Mobile Media Lab, a vehicle that will take our journalists, our marketing team and our circulation and ad sales teams to wherever the people of York County gather,” wrote Parker on the YDR Insider blog. The logo-emblazoned van is intended to make appearances at local events such as town meetings in community centres, youth sports tournaments, parades and home shows, at which it will gather story ideas, conduct seminars on citizen journalism, live stream and tweet events, conduct contests and giveaways, and more. “Equipped with half a dozen laptops, a few iPads and smartphones, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a flatscreen display, we will pull up to any location prepared to demonstrate the many ways we create and curate content,” wrote Parker.

2 - In the vicinity of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News has similar plans to use a van as a “mobile lab and pop-up living room,” according to the proposal by Martin Reynolds, the Senior Editor for Community Engagement for the Bay Area News Group. “With communities in the South Bay and up and down the Peninsula, it makes more sense to create a media lab that can roll into different communities and even be used to cover breaking news,” Reynolds wrote in the proposal, according to Buttry's blog.

St. Paul Pioneer Press on the Vanguard of Mobile Media

3 - In the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, a TwinCities.com van (pictured) would offer donuts and coffee to local citizens, in an attempt to help the St. Paul Pioneer Press build a readership for its online platform and expand its coverage throughout the area. “We will take our Mobile Community Lab to the crowds, and gather and publish content – news, blogs, opinion, slide shows, video – at every stop,” wrote Editor Mike Burbach in his proposal, Buttry reported. “It will be equipped with Wi-Fi, laptops, video and audio equipment, coffee and donuts. It will pull up, open up and welcome people in, in all manner of situations.”

4 - The New Haven Register will take its Newsroom Café to go with what Connecticut Group Editor Matt DeRienzo calls “pop-up newsrooms,” according to journalism.co.uk. “We'll go to either parts of our coverage area we don't feel connected to or we'll go around a big news event and engage in conversation and let bloggers covering the same event use our Wi-Fi signal," DeRienzo said, adding that bloggers would be asked to contribute both informally and as official collaborators.

Thinking outside the van

5/6 - Two other winners proposed partnerships with learning institutions in and around their communities. The El Paso Times in Texas, for example, will work with the University of Texas-El Paso and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Juarez, Mexico, to offer community courses and recruit bloggers in both English and Spanish, from both sides of the border. In Eastern Michigan, Heritage Media will also work with a local university, operating a community newsroom and blogging centre out of the Eastern Michigan University campus, and offering computers, Wi-Fi, and training to potential bloggers at the Spark East business incubator.

7/8 - Meanwhile, in Pasadena, California and Pottstown, Philadelphia, the Pasadena Star-News and The Mercury will use their grant money to remodel their newsrooms, allowing them to provide common space and computers to passers-by for classes, meetings and special events.

9 - In Boulder, Colorado, The Daily Camera, dailycamera.com, BuffZone.com and BoCoPreps.com are going to engage readers with ideas like "You Be the Editor Day,” upon which a guest will be given the power to make page-one decisions, and “Camera garage studio,” a place for local bands to record their sounds.

10/11 - In a Massachusetts town that no longer has a bookstore, The North Adams Transcript will invite the local community into its weekly editorial meetings, each of which will also feature a book swap; in Kingston, New York, The Daily Freeman will open its conference room on selected dates for public classes and tutorials, and will continue to recruit a network of local bloggers.

12 - In the stomping ground of Dean Moriarty, The Denver Post will host monthly forums to bring journalists into contact with the community, invite visitors for tours of the newsroom, and ask that they contribute to discussions at daily editorial meetings.

Stay tuned for an interview with Steve Buttry, Digital First's Director of Community Engagement and Social Media, about the thinking behind the community newsroom.

Sources: journalism.co.uk, Digital First press release, YDR Insider blog, The Buttry Diary

Photo Credit: Will Scullin via Flickr Creative Commons


Emma Knight


2012-07-02 12:53

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