Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hartsville Today online

Well, today is the day we finally get the community news site HartsvilleToday online (parts are still under construction, so pardon our dust).

This J-lab funded project has been awhile in the making as we've run into some delays (my unexpected teaching load and a management shuffle that saw Hartsville publisher Graham Osteen also named co-president of his family's media group), but we also have carefully spent time trying to recruit a wide group of volunteers representative of the community and who, we hope, can seed enthusiasm among others. We purposely did not adopt a "build it and they will come" approach.

We have shunned "citizen journalism" in most of our discussions, preferring instead "community storytelling." Here, for instance, is a Q&A we recently sent out to prospective contributors.

Likewise, we've tried a design that isn't quite so "busy" or "newsy." We're trying to balance a sense of community with the idea that this also is a news site. Thus our use of Drupal software that allows contributors to file "stories" by topic -- and the prominent display of those topics on the front page. For now, we're holding off on the personal blogs with the idea that providing a more structured navigational approach through the topics might work better. We'll look to introduce blogs later.

So we're off and running with a kickoff at The Messenger tonight at 6:30, and we'll see how it goes from here. Among the questions still to be answered: How will the paper's staff take to this?

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At 10/27/05, 10:35 PM, Blogger Paul said...

It will be interesting to see if you can keep up the enthusiasm for the web site after the honeymoon period. (notice how many bloggers start out like one of your horses out of the gait only to loose interest agter a turn around the track.) Will the site be "staffed" with regular contributors as well? will there be links to community business or advertisers? Good luck with it.

At 10/28/05, 10:45 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Good points all, and one of the reasons we've taken awhile to get it up. We're very much aware of the need to "seed and feed." I'm hoping the core group we had at last night's meeting stays as contributors and that we draw some others.

One thing that may work in our favor as well is that the paper publishes Wednesday and Friday. That means Friday night football stories go to its sister daily in Sumter, about 30 miles away and with only limited circulation in Hartsville. I'm working to get the sports reporter to file to HVTD on Friday nights. Looking to then get the paper to consider selling a sponsorship for those reports.

Part of the J-lab experiment is to see if a site like this can become self-sustaining.

Thanks for the input. Let me know if you see anything else we can do.


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