Wick Communications

Lou Grant meets Starbucks

In journalism on 13 Jan 2011 at 3:55 pm

That’s what the New York Times said about The Register Citizen in Litchfield County, Conn. Now we can get a glimpse into that digital-first world.

The publisher of the Register Citizen and the vice president of content of the newspaper’s parent company will be available on a free webinar Jan. 27, hosted by the Suburban Newspaper Association. Wick Communications belongs to the SNA, but this one is free anyway.

The Register Citizen is not in Silicon Valley. It’s in an old mill town, not the sort of place you would think of as an incubator of change. But, at least according to press reports, the minds behind the newspaper decided more than a year ago that they had to try something different to counter sinking circulation.

So they moved into a new location that was designed to maximize the opportunities of the Web and minimize barriers between news staff and the community. They opened their news meetings to the public. They invited bloggers in to work in their newsroom. They even opened a café, where folks could get a cup of coffee and a muffin and discuss the events of the day…

That is a 180-degree turn from the way we used to treat our newsrooms. There was a time when we had armed guards to keep the public at bay in our building foyers (at least at big regional dailies) and we protected above all else our status as the “gatekeepers.” We would tell you what was news, thank you very much.

Well, times have changed, obviously.

My first thought, when I looked at the newsroom’s Web site was that I didn’t see all that change reflected in the product. But if you look closely, you can see some not-so-subtle differences.

The “newspaper” – if that’s what we still want to call it – offers classes, on storytelling, the First Amendment, blogging. There are places on the homepage to add citizen blogs, and fliers for upcoming events, news tips.

I think it’s a noble effort and I’m anxious to see how all that interaction has worked. For one thing, I’d like to hear whether giving away content and classes and the rest has resulted in any revenue opportunities.

Feel free to sign up for the webinar and I’ll let you know what they have to say here.



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