Several months ago, word came that the typical means we had at posting local photos online would be "going away."
Since 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 -- MNG-nenivt.smugmug.com/. 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 Reformer.com. 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.
Typically, users are allotted 15 seconds. Since Digital First Media is a corporate partner with Tout, Reformer employees are able to shoot up to 45 seconds of video.
At first, I wondered, apart from a quick "pan and scan" of an accident scene, or at a newsy event, how could we best utilize Tout to tell a story? Well, I needed to look no further than my own newsroom -- reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman today, armed only with a smartphone, put together a pretty succinct video report about the issues facing residents of Strand Avenue in Brattleboro. Check it out:
As I told my reporters during a staff meeting last week, these new tools (like social media, Tout, Storify, etc.) aren't replacing everyone's good, ol' fashioned reporting efforts. Rather, they're allowing (print) reporters the ability to tell a better story than we were ever able to do in the past.
Great job, Howard!
Just putting the finishing touches on the Reformer's special sub-site dedicated to the Strolling of the Heifers event, coming up this weekend. The site will be linked to a QR code, which I'll make sure to run in upcoming issues of the print edition.
Given that this event draws people from all over the country, my ultimate goal is that visitors from, say, New York city, in Brattleboro for the first time, will see the QR code on the front page of the weekend edition and scan it with their smart phone, thereby having access (in the palm of their hand) to a full weekend schedule, coverage, photos, etc.
I can already see other ways to improve on this next year (there just wasn't enough time to pull it all together this time around).
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: www.Reformer.com/Stroll.
Thirteen months since its inception, and after a month of re-design effort, I'm ready to re-launch the Reformer802.com landing page (possibly the page that brought you here?).
The new page is more static, featuring automated RSS feeds from the various blogs we've labeled as part of the "community." This allows bloggers to focus on their own blogs instead of promoting each post on their own blog with another post on the Reformer802 home page. (I will admit, I borrowed the concept from several other sites, but tried to give Reformer802 it's own look at the same time.)
I'm attempting to categorize the blogs by theme, and took great effort to retain the page's minimalistic appearance. As the community grows, so to will the list of blogs. Most important, in my view, was creating a page that was dynamic and constantly changed, to make people want to visit and revisit the page to see what's new.
There are still several tweaks to work on in the coming weeks, but I hope this new look leads to new community writers interested in sharing their thoughts and opinions with the general readership.
A quick post-storm examination of the Reformer's Hurricane Sandy coverage: Last week, our partners at Digital First Media created an interactive map which was tracking the storm's progression up the East Coast (particularly of interest since no one was exactly clear on where Sandy was headed). We posted that map as breaking news throughout the weekend, and it was far-and-away the most popular online feature at Reformer.com.
Building off that, I decided to create a "storm center" of sorts on the website: There I was able to house not only our own, local coverage of the storm and what Windham County officials were doing to prepare for its arrival, as well as area closings and cancellations, but also various other pieces of information: interactive maps like the one mentioned above, tips for getting through the storm, photo slideshows from throughout the region, and other great coverage being generated by our DFM partners.
Being able to merge this information into one section for our readers created a great product, and offer a dimension of coverage I don't think we would have been able to pull off a few years ago.
As a follow up to a post from a few weeks ago (How do you want your news?), here's a graphic I created for the upcoming Reformer centennial special section being published in the next few days. It speaks to the newspaper industry -- where we were, and where we're headed.
A little graphic I put together today highlighting the various ways we provide the news to readers:
Following our recent success with livestreaming, we'll have two more candidates stop by the Reformer offices on Thursday -- Wendy Wilton, candidate for state treasurer; and Emily Peyton, independent candidate for Vermont governor -- to meeting with the editorial board and our political beat writer.
Learning from the past session(s), we'll try some new/different camera angles. I'm also hoping promoting such meetings further in advance will prompt questions from the community. My biggest concern is that while the timing of such meetings -- typical early to mid-afternoon, or late morning -- isn't quite as convenient to members of the community, who are more than likely at jobs at those times. Still, following the livestream the interviews are saved into our YouTube Channel, so people can still benefit from them even if they can't interact.
Coming up next week, Rep. Peter Welch may be stopping by the offices. And several other candidates have left messages to set up meetings. It looks to be a busy month-and-a-half before the November elections!
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+, Reformer.com 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.