It’s been a while but man have we been busy.
Ben Franklin Project
We are entering the final week of our 30-day deadline on the Ben Franklin Project (http://jrcbenfranklinproject.wordpress.com ).
And I have to tell you how proud I am of the changes this project has brought to our company.
We know we have lousy tech (not the people but the machines and systems) and we know we have punishing schedules to get everything we need to get done. And still our company has taken on this challenge and others and is succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations.
Our two project newspapers – The News Herald in Ohio and Montgomery News in Pennsylvania are showing an entire industry the way on how to change to a true multi-media news company that embraces everything from crowd sourcing news to using free web-based tools to publish to both the web and print.
Unbelievably, Lee Moran, who heads up production at the News Herald, has actually test printed newspaper pages on the press using only free tools. That is an industry first.
Editor Tricia Ambrose and Managing Editor Laura Kessel are bringing the outside world in using citizens to point out issues in every part of their community. I look forward to reading all about it online and print. They have done just an amazing job. Now if I can only get Tricia to stop calling me “Mr. Paton”.
Daphne Miller has perfected her Customer Relationship Management tool using only free web tools. Daphne and Tim Ingle are working on an ad-order entry process – again using only free tools. And again, an industry first for sure.
At Montgomery News, our weekly paper is acting like a very active, big city daily.
The crew there, led by Mike Morsch, Emily Morris and Andy Stettler, is tackling everything from local electric rates to recycling and is asking the community for their questions. They are also taking a hard look at arsenic in a local community’s water supply. That project came directly from readers. A bit like our advisor Jay Rosen’s www.explainthis.org the Montgomery crew has journalists standing by to get answers for the community and is compiling those questions at http://pa.jrcbenfranklin.com . They are also using Facebook as place for readers to debate these issues www.facebook.com/perkasienewsheraldand .
For fun the Montgomery team has the Ben Heads project http://tinyurl.com/28h8cyw . It’s a community photo project that asks readers and members of the newsroom to submit photos of a Ben Franklin cut-out mask in the Pennridge area. Hysterical.
On the production side, an ad order entry form has been created using Google forms which automatically populates a spreadsheet that will be used as an ad manifest to dummy the paper. A Google doc spreadsheet has been adapted to become an invoice. The billing data is pulled automatically from the Google spreadsheet.
The industry is following and JRC is leading the way.
There Is More Going On Than Ben Franklin Project
The cultural change created by the Ben Franklin Project is everywhere in the company.
At the Trentonian, the newspaper live streamed coverage of Trenton’s historic mayoral election. The Trentonian isn’t your grandfather’s newspaper anymore.
At the New Haven Register, Angela Carter harnessed the power of the chain with her Census Project. Great, informative journalism.
And at the Daily Local in West Chester, PA, Editor Andy Hachadorian has been reverse publishing into the newspaper content harnessed from citizens in his community.
In Kingston, Publisher Ira Fusfeld is leading the team to move the newspaper over to a better publishing system – a mission critical assignment.
In Torrington, Publisher Matt DeRienzo is finalizing a move that will take his staff out of its failing building and into brand new quarters. A better and more fun working environment and a brave, tough call in a tough economic environment on Matt’s part.
Finally, you will notice we have made some big executive moves this week.
You know I believe we have to be a Digital First company. It is hard to do that unless you make the Digital world a priority. That’s why the Ben Franklin Project.
And that is why the appointment of Dan Sarko, formerly our head of Digital, to Senior Vice President of Integrated Sales and Jon Cooper, formerly head of Digital Content, to Vice President Content – all content.
Our future is bright and, together, through our collective effort we are proving it.
Until next time, John.