Community engagement in a Digital First newsroom doesn’t mean sitting at a computer all the time. You also invite the public in to use your computers, drink your coffee and chat.
Journal Register Co. newsrooms are working to open our newsrooms in a variety of ways. Our Newsroom Cafe at the Register Citizen in Torrington, CT, has received the most attention, including being named Innovator of the Year last month by the Associated Press Managing Editors (video below). But other JRC newsrooms are working to invite bloggers and other community members into the buildings and to reach out into the community digitally and in person.
The Register Citizen’s move was prompted by a necessity to move out of its old building into a roomy former factory. Publisher Matt DeRienzo planned the layout of the new building to include the Newsroom Cafe, an area with computers and a microfilm machine for public access (with free printouts), a classroom and a lounge where community art could be displayed.
For some newsrooms, this is a great idea to copy or improve upon (as the Winnipeg Free Press did). Opening an area to the public is more challenging in other communities, where many of our newsrooms operate in old buildings and less-than-ideal locations. But each newsroom is working on direct public outreach in its own way.
This is the perfect illustration of something I say frequently: Community engagement is not a one-size-fits-all venture. Don’t try to replicate what the Register Citizen did. Find the right engagement path for your newsroom and your community.