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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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What's new at The Saratogian? Better question: What isn't?

When you ask an editor “what’s new,” you might expect the answer to have something to do with news. And there’s been plenty of local news worth talking about.
In the last few days, a movie theater opened in downtown Saratoga Springs for the first time in decades, the supervisor from one of the county’s biggest towns was charged with felonies, the federal government shutdown and reopening created local ripples and the former Arizona congresswoman still suffering from a 2011 assassination attempt appeared at a Saratoga gun show with New York’s attorney general to promote federally mandated background checks of gun buyers.
In addition, The Saratogian revealed that legal expenses incurred by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority far outpaces comparably sized agencies, the contrasting styles of the Bolshoi Ballet and the New York City Ballet were examined in anticipation of both dance companies coming to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center next summer and local election campaigns are in full swing.
What’s more, there’s been coverage of events and activities designed to raise awareness and money for communitywide issues and services, like domestic violence, hospice, Saratoga Hospital and Saratoga Center for the Family, to name a very few.
But that’s not the kind of news I wanted to talk about today. I want to take you inside the newsroom and up into the clouds: introduced a new look on Wednesday.
Overall, it’s a cleaner look than the one it replaced. But you’re not the only one getting used to it.
I’m calling this our “soft launch.” We are learning as we go and addressing glitches as we (and you) discover them. We’re trying to figure out the best way to give stories appropriate placement, how to get photos in the right size and location and how to ensure headlines and captions show up. We’re looking at both the website and the mobile apps and turning to tech support when presentation is amiss. Sometimes, it’s operator error. Sometimes, it’s the system.
And we’re doing all of this with the position of “online editor” vacant, meaning more work for people who already had more than enough to do.
Assistant Managing Editor Betsy DeMars, Copy Editor Chelsea Kruger and Community Engagement Editor Aubree Cutkomp — all of whom wear many hats — deserve recognition as the new website’s “superusers.” A couple of weeks ago they sat through nine hours of mind-numbing back-end training on a system that was not yet in place.
Since then, Kruger led the way by “populating” the site in anticipation of the launch, uploading content to two websites and being the main go-to person for the rest of us. Repetition will push us along on the road to web publishing success, if the trainers don’t kill the trainees along the way.
The new website is the latest in a series of changes that have been occurring one on top of the other at The Saratogian and many of its sister papers under the Digital First Media umbrella.
Work shifts and coverage for news and sports were moved two or three hours earlier to accommodate earlier print deadlines; a new content management system was installed for writing, editing, filing and storing stories and images; a redesigned print edition was introduced as part of a companywide move to a consistent look; and the layout of pages was moved to a hub at our sister paper in New Haven, although the local staff is still doing all the editing.
And this weekend, we’re switching from Outlook to Google for email, contacts, calendars and documents shared among Saratogian employees and colleagues in newsrooms from New Haven to San Jose and all the Digital First Media properties in between.
Assuming a seamless transition to the new email service (and what change doesn’t go without a hitch?), I invite you to write me at with your comments about the new website and anything else.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Join The Saratogian Community Advisory Board: Be a media mogul

One of the things I love about working at The Saratogian is that readers care about both the community and their hometown newspaper. And one of things I find both exciting and challenging about journalism is focusing on the news, not the paper.
That’s where you come in.
I am forming a new Saratogian Community Advisory Board. I’m looking for people who care about the community and their newspaper and who find and share news the way most people do nowadays —  digitally.
As with advisory boards of the past, members should represent a cross-section of our community, with a variety of interests and backgrounds.
I welcome people with ideas and opinions about what The Saratogian ought to cover, how it might be more engaged with readers and what our priorities should be for the coming year. News, features, sports are all fair game.
The board will focus in part on the basics of journalism: breaking news, features and watchdog reporting. We’ll look at writing, editing, photography, video and the use of social media. We broach ethical issues and share how coverage decisions and editorial positions are made.
This will not be a forum for people to wax nostalgic about traditional print journalism, but rather a place for people who value hometown journalism in a digital world.
The other day I was given a peek at how the newsroom in Syracuse has leaped into that digital world. A friend and former staffer, now an editor at The Post Standard, offered a tour of their new digs in a renovated bank building that now boasts the name
“Welcome to the Apple store,” she said of the relaxed open-air layout, floor-to-ceiling windows, long stretches of tables and comfy seating areas. Staffers worked quietly on laptops at whatever work station they chose. There is more paper on my desk at this moment than the entire main floor of
Maybe an advisory board could advise me on scrapping my scraps of paper.
Your time commitment would be a 90-minute monthly meeting, probably on the third Wednesday or Thursday of the month. The time of day would be based on participants’ preference.
In between meetings, you would have homework, such as critiquing online coverage and the newspaper’s Facebook page or developing suggestions for better coverage of your areas of special interest. The board will meet with me and other staff members.
By the way, I still value the opinions of former advisory board members, some of whom I still see and hear from. Past members are welcome to re-apply. But it’s definitely time to grow the Saratogian’s cadre of consultants.
Still interested?
Email me at with your name, contact info, town, age (give or take), areas of special interest, Twitter handle if you’re a user, and, in a sentence or two, a little about yourself and why you’d like to be a Saratogian Community Advisory Board member.
Also let me if you’re generally available on the third Wednesday or Thursday of the month, and what time of day is best for you.
I look forward to being inundated by potential participants.
Barbara Lombardo is managing editor of The Saratogian. Her blog, Fresh Ink, is on Readers may email her at