Welcome to NewsWorks
November 14, 2010By Chris Satullo
Today, WHYY debuts a new Web site whose motto sums up what we hope will be its distinctive nature: For you. With you. By you.
On NewsWorks, we will try to bring the news from this region, from Wilmington to Princeton, from the Navy Yard to Montgomeryville, with timeliness, accuracy, energy and a sense of fun.
We will try to cover communities not only as places where problems fester and scandals erupt, but as places where hope is stubborn, where quiet hbueroes strive and solutions are possible. And we'll try to make the news timely, tasty and engaging with our new interactive blog, The Feed, which you'll see at the top of every page on the site.
We won't be able to do any of this without you. Newsrooms aren't the teeming masses of eager reporters they were back when I first walked into The Inquirer in 1989, as the 560th employee on the newsroom rolls.
Nor are today's readers willing to settle for having formulaic news shoved at them, by reporters who have no time to answer questions because they're already racing to the next bit of fluff or sensation. Rightfully, you want journalism to be a process of continuous engagement between you and those who claim to bring you the news you need.
That's how journalism will get saved in these troubled times, by a new depth of connection between the reporter and the public.
Marrying citizen energy, professonal skill
At NewsWorks, we'll try to be asking constantly for your questions, your perspectives. When it makes sense, we'll ask you to help us cover the news, with tips, crowd-sourced reports, photos and videos. Some of you we'll recruit, train and deploy as community correspondents, not to supplant our professional journalists, but to supplement and inform them.
We're not going to try to be all things to all people. You won't find a lot of Eagles coverage here, or Lindsay Lohan updates. We won't send anyone to the runways of Paris for the spring shows. But we will send a reporter back to Haiti, to report on how that bedraggled island republic is coping a year after the earthquake.
We're going to try to focus on the things we can do well, and things our NPR and PBS audiences have told us they value: local issues, politics, health and science, the arts, education, neighborhoods.
We're going to experiment in multimedia storytelling, to mix text, audio, video, photos, maps and even games in the new ways that the Web enables, trying to help shape a new story-telling lexicon for the digital age.
We're going to serve as a hub for presenting the fine work being done in Web journalism all over this region, from planphilly.com to njspotlight.com to the young go-getters of Temple's Philadelphia Neighborhoods program. You can see the full list at the bottom of every page on the site.
And we're going to try to have fun, and make the site fun for you, with our Sixth Square participatory area, and its features such as MindMap, Sixes, Junto and Snarl.
From the "War Room" to you
Since July, I've pretty much been locked up in a meeting room on the second floor of WHYY's new Hamilton Media Commons with the other members of our small NewsWorks team. We covered the walls with diagrams, charts and notes recording our frenetic brainstorms. We called it the "War Room," and we had a blast putting this site together for you.
I want to thank some of my colleagues who helped make the War Room such a frantic, laugh-filled, fertile place: project manager Don Henry, without whom there'd be no site for you to be reading right now; ace designers Todd Vachon and Corina Bermudez; your intrepid, pioneering community editors, Alan Tu and Megan Pinto; and our ever-patient WHYY webmaster, Rich Baniewicz. Later arrivals included web producers Erin Wright and Lindsay Lazarsky, and community editor Pat Cobbs and Feed blogger Shannon McDonald. They haven't been with us long, but they've all made important contributions as we raced towards this Nov. 15 launch. Of course, the heart of the enterprise remains the dedicated journalists already working in our Philadelphia and Wilmington newsrooms.
I also want to thank all the members of the NewsWorks Advisory Board, technologists, journalists and community leaders who gave generously of their time and their wisdom to guide us away from any foolish ideas that emerged from the War Room and to nudge us towards the light. And Delmarva Group, the Delaware company that built the site, turning our fevered dreams into ones and zeroes that worked.
I'd also like to thank the 120 or so local residents who showed up to the community forums we held in Northwest Philly last spring to get ideas on what our Web site should cover, and how it could live up to the notion of "For You. With You. By You." (And to the Penn Project for Civic Engagement for helping us run those forums.)
Finally thanks to the executive staff and board of WHYY, particularly CEO Bill Marrazzo and COO Kyra McGrath, for being willing to make a big bet on what we hope will prove to be a big idea.
Roam and react
So please, roam around the site. We've tried to leave lots of little treasures scattered everywhere for you to find. Click the feedback link and let us know what you think. We will be tweaking and adjusting NewsWorks constantly, based on what you tell us..
A few national observers have already sampled and reacted to NewsWorks.org.
Here are links to their pieces:
Here's what Jan Schaffer, head of the J-Lab at American University, had to say:
Also, this piece appeared this week on the Web site of the Center for Social Media, also at American, in Washington, D.C.