What to expect from the new TucsonCitizen.comby Mark B. Evans on May. 20, 2009, under Local, Special
TucsonCitizen.com will be the voice of Tucson.
That’s the goal.
How is that going to happen? There’s the rub.
Over the next two weeks and beyond, the site will be redesigned and improved to give Tucsonans a place where they can have a say on any number of topics.
What you see now is a site created for a metro daily newspaper’s online operation. That’s over.
What will come is a more user-friendly site created to reflect the fast-paced, edgy nature of the Internet age.
Most of what’s been discussed about this new site has been long on generalities and short on specifics.
I wish I could reverse that and give you more details but we’re still working that out.
That said, I’ve been tasked to make it work, along with my compadre, Ryn Gargulinski (and, I hope, a sports writer to be named later).
We have some ideas and we’re reaching out to the Tucson community for theirs, since in the end it will be more their site than ours.
But there is a loose framework we’re discussing.
What’s the BIG idea?
The operating model we’re using is The Huffington Post. Don’t jump to conclusions about political bent, it’s the way the Huffpo site operates, not what’s on it that I’m talking about.
The site is a collection of blogs and bloggers who post news, information, opinion and more on the site everyday.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of Tucson bloggers. They add a tremendous amount of knowledge and perspective to the total universe of Tucson.
But each is unique and mostly stand alone. All rely on Google searches, word-of-mouth and a few other modestly effective means to market their work.
Our idea is to offer them the economy and power of scale. To bring them in under the TucsonCitizen.com‘s big tent where the traffic for each benefits the other.
What’s in it for Gannett and Tucson Newspapers? Readers. Site traffic. Page views. Impressions. The things the companies sell to advertisers (this is a business, after all).
What’s in it for the bloggers? Scale. Site and CMS assistance, perhaps free site hosting. Maybe even a piece of the revenue action (pay based on percentage of site traffic generated is only fair and something I’m advocating for during this “transition” phase. Making that happen and how to do it will take a lot of negotiation and discussion with the powers that be here and in Virginia).
They toil away part-time, some full-time, on their blogs, using any number of content management systems. All bloggers have to learn to be a bit of a web monkey to make their blogs look good. Some become quite good at it, but most quickly reach their Peter Principle after learning how to upload photos and video. But the web is a much more powerful broadcast medium than that.
We can help them podcast, vodcast, live stream, create interactive graphics, find and use government data and much more.
But most significantly, instead of a few hundred or a few thousand page views a day, they will get tens or even hundreds of thousands. The reach and impact of what they write and post will exponentially increase. And isn’t that the point?
If they blog because they want to inform, then informing more people under the TucsonCitizen.com umbrella than they could on their own is a win-win.
If you have a blog and are interested in what we can do for you, or you want to start a blog for TucsonCitizen.com, e-mail me, email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Irrespective of whether only some or all of the above happens, today I have begun to scratch out the rudimentary plans for a Tucson bloggers convention. It would have guest speakers who will lead breakout sessions on copyright and libel law, the DMCA Safe Harbor Act, using public records, effective web searches, CMS add-ons and widgets, marketing your site, advertising and more.
Regardless of whether bloggers blog on TucsonCitizen.com, our site will be an advocate for online news, opinion and commentary. A convention such as this will help connect bloggers with each other, promote online debate and discussion about Tucson for Tucsonans and encourage and teach those who want to jump into blogging but may be intimidated by the depth of the pool.
I have no budget for this yet, but I’m working on it. If you have ideas for such a convention or believe you have the expertise to be a presenter or panelist, e-mail me at email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Take your micro community macro
We humans like to divide ourselves into communities. The web is chock-a-block with them: Knitters, hikers, bikers, geocahers, foodies, book worms, movie buffs, sports team fanatics etc., etc. etc.
Those, too, are spread out in the great expanse of cyberspace, hoping some passing web spider hears their signal and aggregates them into the great RSS feed in the sky, routing them to computer screens of other like-minded people.
TucsonCitizen.com will seek to find and foster these local online communities, or help create and support new ones.
The power of many
The hallowed halls of journalism schools and the stately board rooms of newspaper and TV news companies were shaken to their core a few years ago by two little words: Citizen Journalist.
TucsonCitizen.com will eventually be the publishing arm of a multitude of Tucson citizen journalists – bloggers and others who will report the news of their community to their community.
There are a million people in this valley and there are a million stories to tell. The handful of paid journalists in this city only begin to scratch the surface on the amount of news out there. Those stories will find an audience at TucsonCitizen.com.
There will be a how-to for using the state’s public records law and other news reporting tips to help citizens report and publish news.
If you need or want a public record and don’t know how or where to get it, or the government isn’t giving it to you, e-mail me, email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll help you get it.
A work in progress
All of this is in the discussion stage. It is what we’re working to create. Some of it may be available in a week, other aspects more than a week. Some may be a good idea that remains just that.
But Ryn and I will work every day to make as much of this as possible happen.
The key to this is you.
If you have other ideas than the above that you want this site to be, or comments or feedback on any of the above, e-mail Ryn or me and we’ll see about getting to work on it.