If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know, via my bio, that I consider myself an “information omnivore.” I read voraciously, a habit that started when I was too young and too small to even hold up the newspaper — I had to spread it out on the floor to read it.
If anything, the explosion of digital media has only whetted my information consumption. Zite points me to things I might not otherwise see. My Twitter feed and my Facebook feed are a steady buffet. I joke that I can’t die because my Read It Later list is already overflowing.
With that kind of hard-wiring, it’s probably not surprising that I went into journalism. As a reporter, I loved talking to people and telling their stories. As an editor, I loved helping reporters polish and find their stories and directing coverage of news, features and sports.
A lot of the attention so far on MaineToday Digital – deservedly so – has been on the exciting initiatives our sales and marketing folks are putting together in digital media.
But what we haven’t talked as much about yet is our other project: revamping www.mainetoday.com as a statewide information source. I’m happy to say that our editorial team is starting to get ramped up on that front. Our company’s ownership embraces digital media and is poised to make some key technology investments to help us move forward.
The new MaineToday.com will enable us to pull and present the best statewide content from our company’s four news organizations: the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Morning Sentinel, the Kennebec Journal and the Coastal Journal. We’re also recruiting writers across Maine to work with us.
Another area where we’d like to do more is in collaborating with local community groups and bloggers. Maine is full of interesting people doing interesting things. We’ve already had some great conversations with people who want to be part of what we’re doing – I think you’ll find them full of thought-provoking things to say.
Will the new MaineToday.com be a news site? Absolutely. Sports and weather? Of course. Will it be a community site? I sure hope so. Will it retain parts of its current incarnation as an entertainment-focused site? Yes.
Four staffers from the Press Herald have joined me at MaineToday Digital. Our backgrounds are very different, but we share this: we believe in journalism – especially online.
Content producer Shannon Bryan points out that valuable information from newspapers often gets lost in the shuffle after the daily cycle. Like me, she sees Mainetoday.com as a resource to curate information.
“Content shouldn’t be siloed because people aren’t siloed,” Bryan said. “One person might obsess over the Red Sox and swoon over good sushi – they can be a news junkie and an outdoorsman. Our content should support that.”
Karen Beaudoin, who had been the PPH’s deputy features editor, agrees the new site can be a resource, but she also points out the value of immediacy in news coverage. “By creating and aggregating content from other sites we’ll be able to keep our users much better informed and up to date than any print products can hope to,” she said. “We should be expected to ‘get it up now.’ “
“I wanted to come to this division because not only is it the future of how news and information will be created and shared, it’s also the present,” Beaudoin said.
Community manager Chelsea Doyle said she was drawn to the new project because she believes journalists need to be connected with the public. “MaineToday wants to be the place to go for all local news and events, and what better way to share that with you then through social networking?” said Doyle, who also moderates reader comments on the three newspaper sites. “Plus there’s always the fact that users can directly share their own information and ideas back to us, and it means connecting and communicating with Maine in the best possible way.”
Finally, Gabe Souza, our photographer/videographer, notes that, while he still buys Sunday papers, much of his weekday news diet comes from online. It’s an arena he’s quite comfortable in, as you can see from his online portfolio, which incorporates his blogging and tweets.
“There’s never been a more exciting time to be a photographer for a digital-based news platform than now,” he said. “The possibilities are endless.”
As for me, over the past few years, I’ve rejected the idea that journalists are “online” or “print.” If we want to survive, we’ll need to be thinking of ourselves as a news media organization that happens to have a print component. (Another person who believes this is media executive John Paton, who was profiled today in a thought-provoking New York Times piece by David Carr.)
The world is different; readers’ needs are different. And in a way, the explosion of information online makes it even more crucial to have a news organization you trust there to be a guide, to help direct you to the content that will enlighten, amuse or assist you the most.
In the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about an interview posted on the Nieman Journalism Lab with John Robinson, who’s leaving next month as editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. In it, Robinson – whom I’ve considered a role model for editors on Twitter – gives his advice to editors in this changing landscape.
It’s a valuable read, but here’s the quote that really stuck with me: Robinson deplored the focus on gossip news and said, “we really need to be writing about smart people doing smart things.”
Maine is full of smart people doing smart things. I’ve already been meeting with many of them, and I invariably come back from those encounters feeling energized and excited about the new site.
We’re looking forward to telling your stories, and we’d like to hear what you’re looking for to feed your appetite for information. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter or call me at 791-6330.
And stay tuned as the new mainetoday.com emerges.