Four newsroom vans will roll into neighborhoods in the coming months, loaded with the equipment and people of community engagement projects.
We will launch the Mobile Community Media Lab projects in Connecticut, the San Francisco Bay area, the Twin Cities and York, Pa.
Digital First Media announced plans today for 12 community newsroom projects that will engage our communities in a variety of ways. In addition to the four mobile labs, we will be launching university partnerships, remodeling newsrooms to provide space for the community and planning special projects in our existing space.
I will blog in greater detail about each of the projects as I visit those newsrooms and as we launch the projects.
“This mobile lab and pop-up living room would operate as a brick and mortar lab would, except with one very powerful exception. Instead of the community having to come to us, we could come to it,” Martin Reynolds, Senior Editor – Community Engagement for the Bay Area News Group, wrote in the proposal for the San Jose Mercury News. “With communities in the South Bay and up and down the Peninsula, it makes more sense to create a media lab that can roll into different communities and even be used to cover breaking news.”
“We will take our Mobile Community Lab to the crowds, and gather and publish content – news, blogs, opinion, slide shows, video – at every stop,” Editor Mike Burbach said in his proposal for the TwinCities.com mobile project. “It will be equipped with Wi-Fi, laptops, video and audio equipment, coffee and donuts. It will pull up, open up and welcome people in, in all manner of situations.”
The St. Paul Pioneer Press, long the leading news brand on the east side of the Twin Cities, has a metrowide digital brand, and the van will engage with the community throughout the region.
Each of these newsrooms serves a sprawling region where it might have difficulty attracting people to a Newsroom Café, similar to our Register Citizen project in Torrington, Conn., which was named Innovator of the Year by the Associated Press Media Editors last year. Randy Parker, managing editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, explained in the blog post proposing his newsroom’s mobile project:
Our newsroom is outside of the city and away from foot traffic. Few people would venture to this location to take advantage of an on-site media lab. Even if we were downtown, many of you would still not be likely to visit us. The culture of the southern part of York County points toward Baltimore. The northern tier gravitates toward Harrisburg. In this county of 72 municipalities, there really is no single hub.
When it comes to outreach, this community needs a visitor, not a guesthouse.
A key purpose of the rolling newsrooms will be to help people of the communities tell their own stories. As Randy wrote:
Most of your neighbors have not grasped how new media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, or blogs and video can help them share information and forge tighter bonds. Your typical Lions Club in York County, for instance, has not posted videos to YouTube that show off how it has helped the visually impaired. It’s doubtful that many ladies auxiliaries have used Facebook to boost turnout to a pot pie supper to help raise money for their volunteer fire department. …
We want to reach more people who need our help. We want to develop new audiences.
The Record welcomes people into its newsrooms for “How to Get It Published” workshops (I joined one last November). Now it will be taking the workshop on the road.
York will be using an old delivery van (below, I got a look at it this week), which will get a little body work and some flashy new graphics.
Update: Randy has a new blog post about plans for the YES-UV.
Explaining the Connecticut project, Connecticut Group Editor Matt DeRienzo, who launched the Torrington project when he was publisher of the Register Citizen, said:
The New Haven Register will bring its “open newsroom” concept on the road with its new mobile newsroom. Similar to The Register Citizen Newsroom Café in Torrington, Connecticut, the mobile newsroom will be aimed at partnering with our audience.
Community Engagement Editors Angela Carter and Ed Stannard will set up at the scene of local events or stories of interest to the community and target specific neighborhoods for outreach. Tables and chairs will be set up when the mobile newsroom van parks, and our public wi-fi hotspot will allow citizens to engage with the newsroom both in person and on the web. The New Haven Register’s photography staff will use the van for community storytelling projects on, for example, the closure of a neighborhood landmark.
I expect to visit all four communities in the coming weeks to blog about these community engagement efforts.
I visited one of our 12 new engagement projects last week: the Heritage Media partnership with Eastern Michigan University at the Spark East business incubator in Ypsilanti. Managing Editor Michelle Rogers and her staff are setting up a couple of public blogging stations (right) in the lobby of the incubator, with access to the conference room, where I led a workshop.
We also are launching a community newsroom in a partnership with universities at the El Paso Times. We will provide a room equipped with computers for public use and for classes. The Times project will use technology to engage the community on both sides of the Mexican border in a partnership with the University of Texas-El Paso and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Projects at the Pasadena Star-News and The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., will involve remodeling at their current newsrooms to provide computers and space for community meetings and classes. The Mercury project will continue strong engagement already under way. I attended a happy hour hosted by Positively Pottstown, a community blog, last June in the room that will be remodeled. And I blogged earlier this year about a food drive using the Pottstown Community Media Lab. Update: Editor Nancy March explains more about the Pottstown project in her blog.
Projects at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.; Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y.; Denver Post and North Adams (Mass.) Transcript will deepen community engagement in existing facilities. I will blog in greater detail about each of these projects during newsroom visits later in the year. Update: See Ivan Lajara’s blog post about the Freeman’s projects.