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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Saratogian Community Media Lab inaugural session something to brag, and blog, about

I am so psyched. Tonight was the introductory session of The Saratogian Community Media Lab. Ten interesting local people came to the news building to learn about becoming more involved in The Saratogian as citizen bloggers.

The purpose of the Community Media Lab can be boiled down to four goals:
1. To improve the community, as citizen bloggers shape Saratogian coverage with their ideas, blog content, and frequent communication with news staffers.
2. To provide a forum where readers can turn for topical and provocative information and opinions.
3. To help bloggers improve their craft through training provided by a combination of Saratogian staffers, fellow Community Media Lab members, and other local experts.
4. To help bloggers expand their reach through social media, cross-promotion, giving their posts exposure in print and online outside the blog, and adding blog-enhancing features like links, photos and videos.

An introductory session for another group of potential Community Media Lab members is scheduled for a couple of weeks from now. When it all shakes out, I hope to have a solid dozen active Community Media Lab members who will work with us to take blogging up a notch at and be an advisory board of sorts for content.

The Community Media Lab is not about simply taking existing blogs and placing them under a new heading. That wouldn’t wash with John Paton, CEO of Journal Register Company, which owns The Saratogian. It wouldn’t fool you for a minute, either. Although some of the CML bloggers are familiar, their relationship with The Saratogian is new. For instance, CML members have a standing invitation to join in on our nightly news conference, which is where the editors decide on the top stories for print and online. They will be receiving training on social media, along with members of our staff. We’ll have quarterly get-togethers with staff and bloggers, and in between we'll have CML updates.

Topics of particular interest to the bloggers at our inaugural session included politics to the left and right, the environment, good government, tourism, parks, technology, and leaving behind big city life for Saratoga. We kicked off the Community Media Lab earlier this week by introducing "Shine a Light" by Maggie Fronk, who is brand new to blogging but well-versed on issues of domestic violence and women’s safety on a local level and beyond, as executive director of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County. In addition to her post under the Community Media Lab button on, you’ll find a video of Fronk talking about this new venture with The Saratogian.
I want to publicly thank Online Editor Emily Donohue for her role in the Community Media Lab and all things online for The Saratogian, including her frequent and patient one-on-one social media tutorials for yours truly. I also want to acknowledge Joe Rocha, whose multiple hats include that of editor of Ballston Spa Life, which appears weekly in print and at, and who will be assisting bloggers with refining content, and reporters Mareesa Nicosia and Patrick Donges, who write popular business and city news blogs. All three are Community Media Lab Support Staff, along with Assistant Managing Editor Betsy DeMars and Advertising Director Lauren Rose, who jointly write a Media Moms blog.
Emily Donohue assured the group tonight that short, interesting and frequent posts appeal to readers, and that a blog entry need not be 700 words. Since I’m approaching that, I think it’s time to wrap up.
One more thank you is in order, to Sandy and Tom Lewis. Tom has been in the forefront of local blogging, showed me Twitter long before I appreciated its potential for reaching new audiences, and had a number of helpful tips tonight for fellow Community Media Lab members. Sandy gets a thank you for baking what Tom promised would be the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. They were gone at the meeting in no time flat, and Tom was right — which means there’s at least one thing he and I will always be able to agree on.


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