Behind The Scenes

Getting Reformer photos back online

Several months ago, word came that the typical means we had at posting local photos online would be "going away."

NENI-VTSince that time, there's been several projects and upheavals in the Reformer's "photo department" (as quaint as it is). Previous photo editor Zach Stephens and I began a massive project of digitizing all our of our electronic photo archives on a dedicated hard drive. As simple as it sounds, it was actually quite a time-consuming process, as many photos either existed only on burned CD or DVD, or online, or in some corner of a server in the newsroom. (Sadly, several months later this is still, very much, a work in progress.)

Then, Mr. Stephens announced he would be leaving the Reformer. Since then (as I've blogged about in the past), I created a new position to replace him -- Multimedia Editor -- and have since been working on several other projects with the newest member of the newsroom, Kayla Rice.

Well, no longer. Reformer photographs are now available to look at and purchase via the online tool SmugMug -- This site will be shared between the Brattleboro Reformer and sister-papers in Vermont, the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal.

In addition, we will also be building slideshows from various assignments and presenting them in the Media Center at In addition to local slideshows, there you will also have access to national and international photos on a variety of topics, generated by our Digital First Media partners.

This is obviously a welcome addition to our recently redesigned website, but I'm also happy to get local photos back online, where they can be used to enhance our coverage, or tell their own stories.


A special home for the Stroll on

I've been re-building a site I first put together last year for our Strolling of the Heifers coverage -- a compilation of our coverage, press releases on the event(s), photos and videos from years past, as well as social media tie-ins. Here's a preview:
























You can find the site here:


Experimenting with livestreaming

As happens frequently in the lead-up to elections, I frequently have local and state candidates stop by the Reformer offices to meet with the editorial board and discuss the campaign. Over the past few years, I've made a point to include a reporter on those discussions.

I know these visits are all part of the campaign; For the amount of time the candidate is willing to take to travel to the offices and have this meeting, and the amount of time two, three or four members of the newsroom take to participate in the meeting, it would be nice to have something to present to readers. Sometimes that's easy -- we can do a candidate profile, or get several quotes for a story or two we're working on, or perhaps even craft an editorial (or at least get some information for one). But sometimes a meeting doesn't quite fall into any of those categories. And that's why I'm excited about livestreaming upcoming meetings.

You see, in the past, we've had candidates come in, and I've set aside several minutes at the beginning or end of the visit to ask a specific set of questions on video. Then that 10 minutes or so of video would need to be edited, re-edited and uploaded -- an unfortunately very time-consuming task. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to get to the editing/uploading process until a week after the interview had taken place.

Now, by utilizing our Google+ account and creating a hangout, we can livestream interviews with candidates directly onto Google+, and our YouTube channel. The best part? Well, actually there's two: First, after the interview concludes, the videos are saved on YouTube for folks to watch at their convenience; Second, I can take questions from readers during the interview and ask them live during the broadcast.

Later today I have Doug Hoffer (Democrat candidate for state auditor) and Randy Brock (Republican candidate for Vermont governor) coming in. If the "experiment is a success look for this to become a regular feature whenever anyone notable comes to the Reformer offices for an interview.


Troubleshooting online issues

A rash of reader complaints over the past two weeks regarding a specific issue with -- whenever they clicked on a link to read a story, as the new page would begin to load, the text of the story would "kick out," and they would be left with the page header, an ad element (internally called the Daily Me widget) and the Disqus commenting tool.

Using several different computers and web browsers, both in the office and at home (and on my phone) I was unable to re-create the issue, making it extremely difficult to troubleshoot what may be the issue. After a week's worth of investigation, several things became apparent:

-- The issue only happened with readers using Internet Explorer.

-- If the reader altered the story's URL, the error would disappear. For example:

If clicking on the link brought you to this page:

... then the user would remove the elements before and following the numeric story ID:

In most cases, this seemed to correct the problem.

-- This was a recent issue; In the past several weeks, changes were made to only three elements of the website, the commenting tool, the story URLs and an ad element on the article display pages.

Systematically going through those elements with the help of tech support, we discovered today that the issue lay with the commenting tool. We had recently upgraded the software to a 2012 version, which apparently doesn't interact well with parts of Internet Explorer.

It's still not clear is we can revert the commenting tool back to an older version. So, at the moment, a choice needs to be made whether to turn story commenting off or risk alienating a segment of the readership. (I hope it's clear what side the editor would fall on.) In any case, the issue will be brought up during a Wednesday morning meeting of regional editors.

Hopefully a fix is forthcoming.


Launching a *new* website

Some people may not realize that, in addition to a daily newspaper we also publish a few weeklies, quarterly magazine and various other niche products at the offices on Black Mountain Road. One of those products is the Greenfield Town Crier, which undergoes a slight redesign this week. That redesign is part of a renewed push to improve and re-imagine what the Greenfield Town Crier can be. In addition to the redesign, there will be new office hours at the Greenfield office and a new (simple) website (which I built earlier this week) has been launched here.

There's a lot more happening in the newsrooms of today compared with three or four decades ago ....