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Posts Tagged ‘Pottstown Mercury’

As I noted in yesterday’s post about crowdfunding, I was participating in a #MuckedUp chat on the topic last night. You can read a Storify curation of the chat if you missed it.

I made brief reference in the post to a community-funded project by the Pottstown Mercury:

Nancy March

Nancy March

Thanks to Nancy March, editor of the Merc (and a previous guest blogger here in our days as Digital First Media colleagues), for letting me use this email about the project as a guest post:

We extended a paid internship to our Chips Quinn intern Miica Patterson for an additional 23 weeks to work on this project. I don’t assign her any other work, and every story runs with a note at the end saying reporting is funded in part by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation. She is learning new journalism skills and strengthening others — video, interviewing, engagement, writing, photography.

Miica Patterson riding for Bike Pottstown

Miica Patterson riding for Bike Pottstown

The work involves a lot of community engagement aimed at promoting cheap and accessible ways to exercise and eat right. Miica organizes and manages a “Mercury Mile” lunchtime exercise break every Thursday at noon to emphasize that you can get exercise in your work day.  Last week we did yoga in a downtown park.

We have had zumba and agility classes after work in public parks, features on the community garden and cooking with vegetables, and a wonderful community engagement effort in the Fourth of July parade in which Bike Pottstown, health and wellness foundation staffers, Stop the Violence marchers and The Mercury family joined forces to show off our causes.  Here’s my column about that.

We feature our Fit for Life coverage on a subsection of the website, and it has its own Facebook and Twitter identity.

Rather than a conflict of interest, the foundation funding is a joining of community interests. It allows us to report on and engage people in a project that we would not be able to manage with our staff resources.  The project was inspired by news — a health needs assessment that showed obesity and health-related concerns on the rise in the Pottstown tri-county area — and is intended to lead the community in improving itself.

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Brandie Kessler

We all want our journalism to have impact. Well, here’s impact for you: the Wanted by Police Pinboard launched by the Pottstown Mercury’s Brandie Kessler is resulting in arrests.

In a recent Mercury story, Pottstown Police Capt. F. Richard Drumheller said arrests were up 58 percent since the Mercury started publicizing mug shots of people with outstanding warrants.

Brandie explained in a lightly edited email how the Merc is using Pinterest like a post office bulletin board:

When Mandy Jenkins stopped by The Mercury a few months ago and told us a bit about various new social media, myself and reporter Evan Brandt thought Pinterest, because of its photo-focus, would be perfect for a wanted by police list.

I had put a list together in a slideshow on our website long before the Pinterest board, but the slideshow kept freezing or not working and it was difficult to update and difficult to highlight on Facebook and Twitter.

I decided to create a list on Pinterest. It’s great because it’s easy to update, easy to view on a smartphone and you don’t even need a Pinterest account to view it. Plus, it’s simple to post the link on Facebook and Twitter, and our readers love it.

Police departments have told me they have made many arrests as a direct result of the Pinterest board, which is pretty awesome.

Here’s what Brandie told area police chiefs in asking them to send fugitives’ photos for use on the Pinboard:

Pinterest is a sort of digital corkboard and is among the fastest growing social media sites in the world. Many of its users use Pinterest to post or “pin” recipes, craft ideas and other things which they can easily organize using the site. However, we’ve found it’s also a great way to display mug shots.

Pottstown police department has a public list of persons wanted by their department for a variety of offenses. I created a board using a collection of mug shots of Pottstown’s wanted persons along with a snapshot of what each individual is wanted for. I then posted that “board” to our Facebook page, where more than 6,600 (Buttry note: That number is now more than 7,000) of our readers are able to view it regardless of whether they have their own Pinterest log in.

Community Engagement Editor Diane Hoffman demurred to Brandie when I asked questions about this, but I’m pretty sure one of the reasons this works so well is that Diane has built a strong following for the Merc’s Pinterest account, with nearly 800 followers. Diane is one of Digital First Media’s Pinterest rock stars, generating strong engagement with Pinboards about topics such as pets, graduation, prom and brides. That sizable audience clearly set the stage for the fugitive pins to work effectively.

Beyond the social nature of Pinterest, Mercury Editor Nancy March explained why the Pinboard approach is effective:

We initially had this Most Wanted list as a photo gallery on website but one of advantages of Pinterest board is the view on mobile devices. Far surpasses what reader sees on our site.

Nancy has shared the idea with other Digital First editors in Pennsylvania. She reports that colleagues at the Times Herald in Norristown and the Daily Local News in West Chester are planning to start similar Pinboards. When we get several of the local Pinboards going, we’ll create a “regional Most Wanted list” that the mug shots will be repinned to, Nancy said.

Brandie noted multiple levels on which the mug shots help police, the community and the police reporter:

As a police reporter with The Mercury for the past 6 years, I often find myself asking the police to help me. This board allows me to help the police, which really improves the working relationship I have with them.

It’s also great to give the public an opportunity to help improve the quality of life in their community. One thing I hear from the local police chiefs is there are only X amount of police officers on their respective forces, and they would love the community’s help in being more efficient. This board facilitates that. It’s also wonderfully interactive.

Earlier posts about Digital First journalists at work:

Asking people to share memories: always a good idea on an anniversary

GatheringPoint and Geofeedia help you find social media by location

Denver Post staffers’ #theatershooting coverage demonstrates Twitter breaking news techniques

Geofeedia, slideshows, cleaning up and a snake

‘American Homecomings’ tells veterans’ stories nationwide

York Daily Record quiz helps voters pick candidates reflecting their views

York Daily Record’s ‘Finding Their Way Out’: an old-school digital journalism project

Trentonian’s best-bar tourndy heightens March Madness engagement

Coverage of deadly fire shows Daily Mail’s  Digital First progress

What does an engagement editor do? Digital First editors answer

Michigan tornado coverage shows off Heritage journalists’ digital skills

Oakland Press collects community photos of children with a statue

Troy Record’s breaking news coverage drives Facebook discussion

An engaged reporter: no longer ‘just a fly on the wall’

Pottstown Mercury engages bloggers in community food drive

Facebook engagement tips: Use breaking news photos and calls to action

Jeff Edelstein uses Klout to reach people interested in his content

Valentine’s Day: a perfect opportunity for community engagement

Community internships: Oakland Press helps bloggers develop skills

Google+ Hangout helps with video interviews

Banjo app helped Andy Stettler find local tweets

Lisa Fernandez shares a crowdsourcing (or fetching) lesson

Buffy Andrews’ tips for daily beat checks using HootSuite

Larry Altman’s account of live-tweeting a breaking news story

Examples of live-tweeting government meetings

A first try at live-tweeting from the courtroom

Romeo and Juliet on Facebook: great fun and community engagement

San Pedro landslide shows power of social media

Reach out through Facebook to gather information on tragic stories

Engagement opportunities: weather, elections, sports, school fun

Denver Post social media use delivers on mountain lion vs. kitty story

Opening our Journal Register newsrooms to the community

Include staff members’ usernames in tweets promoting your content

Crowdsourcing Hurricane Irene recovery map in Connecticut

JRC journalists use social media to cover earthquake and hurricane

Trentonian uses Google+ and other tools to cover apartment shooting

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Visitors use computers available for public use at the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab.

I was a guest speaker today at a ceremony in Pottstown, Pa., to celebrate the opening of the Community Media Lab of the Mercury, a Digital First news operation.

The celebration was a joint opening with the new Pottstown Visitors Center across the street in the Merc’s original building.

I have published a couple photos here, but others are in my DFM Engagement Tumblr started today. I also Storified tweets and photos about the opening celebration.

Here are my prepared remarks:

Perhaps you’ve heard that newspapers are in trouble, or even that they are dying.

I’m here to tell you today that the Mercury and Digital First Media have a bright future. The changes reflected in the Mercury’s new Community Media Lab are part of a transformation of our business that is delivering results and that will ensure a continuing role in Pottstown and the surrounding communities for the Merc and our journalists.

(more…)

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I’m just doing some aggregation here, pointing to excellent how-tos by Buffy Andrews and Ivan Lajara and a great engagement story by Nancy March:

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We’re getting ready to take some of our Digital First Media newsrooms on the road.

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. (more…)

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Pottstown food drive

Donated food fills the Pottstown Community Media Lab

Update: My Digital First colleagues at the York Daily Record and FlipSide are doing a food drive in connection with the opening of “Hunger Games” tonight.

I hope I don’t give the impression that community engagement is just a matter of tweets, blogs and Facebook updates. Sometimes community engagement is a matter of cans of food and jugs of laundry detergent.

I am pleased to share the story of a community food drive led by The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., and its network of Town Square bloggers. Editor Nancy March alerted me to the project. I’ll tell the story through emails from Nancy and her staff (lightly edited to add links and to pull them together into a narrative).

We are calling it the “Town Square Fill the Media Lab Challenge.” The challenge is for bloggers to engage their audiences to collect 20,000 food items for area food pantries by Easter. Each blogger can select a food pantry in their community (we have about 10 separate sites in the municipalities we cover) and feature it on their blog, while challenging people to donate food. (more…)

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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.

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