A revolution is under way, and it’s happening in a newsroom near you.
A familiar old face is serving as our standard-bearer — Ben Franklin — a symbol of innovation, an informed, active citizenry and an invigorated press.
The press? Make that the “news media.” The role of the media as a catalyst for positive change has always been paramount. The Internet is making it easier to shine a light on issues and to pose and implement solutions.
Long before personal computers were commonplace, readers have generously given their time as Saratogian advisory board members, critiquing coverage, suggesting coverage topics and serving as citizen ambassadors for the hometown paper.
Now you can serve as advisers, sources and participants with the click of a button. The buzzword is “crowdsourcing,” and we want to embrace it as a way to plant and sow the seeds of coverage that you are interested in and possibly knowledgeable about.
What topics, broad or specific, would you like us to focus on for short- and long-term coverage? Are you willing to be a source or can you suggest someone else who might be?
Based on your suggestions, we’ll come back to you, asking for help on more specific topics, as the reporting process becomes a collaborative effort.
The other day, our reporters tossed around a few topics that seem to pique local interest: running a successful small business in Saratoga, recreation options in the city, historic properties and their preservation, the cost of our schools and the efficiency of city government. Choose from or add to these topics.
We have already begun work on a project that has been on the radar lately because of a couple of cases involving well-known citizens: Alcoholism. The number of AA meetings per week in our towns will surprise you. If this is a topic to which you would like to contribute ideas, tips, data or firsthand experiences as this project takes shape, let us know.
We will also be diving into the impending vote to change the form of government to a system with a city manager. Care to help us with that one?
In the old newspaper days, fear of tipping off the competition would make me reluctant to tell the world what we’re working on. Today, I want to reach out to the world and tap into everyone’s energy and knowledge. We need each other.
OK. We need you. After all, anyone can publish. Which brings me to the Ben Franklin project.
The July 4 edition of The Saratogian will be created, as much as technically possible, using only free software available over the Internet. We will be writing stories, uploading and editing pictures, laying out the pages and writing headlines using free computer programs that can be found by anyone with the initiative to look for them. The other 17 dailies in the Journal Register Co. will be doing the same thing.
It’s an exercise (already accomplished by two of JRC’s publications) that acknowledges the digital world and a revolution of company culture. With arrogance and fear of the Internet behind us, JRC, under the new leadership of CEO John Paton, is determined to be regarded as a leader in the news industry.
It’s exciting to be part of a can-do, forward-looking culture. And a little daunting. After all, the Ben Franklin project — independence from newsroom proprietary computer software for Independence Day — will, even if for just one symbolic day, be a time-consuming project added to an already full plate.
Hey, maybe you can help us figure out the best free word processing, design, photo and page layout programs to try. Any suggestions? Anyone out there who can give us a hand with Scribus?
Add your comments to the online version of this column. And check out our newest blog, The Saratechian, which reporters Mareesa Nicosia and Emily Dohonue, our Twitter Queen, started last week.
Something new can be energizing, too.
As Ben Franklin said, “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.”
We’re on the move. Join us.
• Learn more about the Ben Franklin project at http://jrcbenfranklinproject.wordpress.com/about/
• Follow The Saratechian blog at www.saratogian.com.