Newspapers and readers swap ideas
Two newspapers, the Modesto Bee in California and the Brisbane
Courier-Mail in Australia, have developed truly inter-active websites,
making it easy for staff writers and readers to exchange ideas. Let's hope
they're blazing the trail for other publications. Perhaps they're giving us a
glimpse into the future look of newspapers everywhere.
A reader of the oddly-named Modesto Bee could
send this stinging rebuke to the editor merely by ticking a few boxes on an
online form and adding a name, address and phone number:
Dear Cretin - In regard to your offensive flight of
fancy of April 1, on my kid's school, I would like to complain, thumb my
nose at you, hurl invectives.
In closing, I demand an explanation, an apology.
Sit on it.
On the other hand, if readers were pleased with a story, they could send the
following effusive and more polite message just as easily, by ticking even fewer
Dear Editor - In regard to your excellent column of
April 1, on my favorite TV show, I would like to applaud.
This message appeared recently on the newspaper's attractive website:
We stink -- er, we meant 'what you think'
By DAN DAY
BEE MANAGING EDITOR
All of us at The Modesto Bee want to make
your newspaper as open and approachable as possible.
So we take your
phone calls, answer your e-mails, post comments on blogs and speak to
Yet on any given day, we have direct contact with only a small
portion of our readers, who are busy with the hectic pace of modern
We've come up with a way to make it easier for you to let us know
what you're thinking.
We logged and analyzed hundreds of calls, letters and e-mails from
readers and stashed them in a database. We extracted the most common
topics of concern, enabling us to produce this convenient feedback form.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Day is the managing editor of The Bee. He can be reached at
ddayATmodbee.com. Or use the form below.
Wouldn't it be great if all newspaper editors followed Dan's lead, and made
it just as easy for us to vent our spleen or (perhaps very occasionally) our
Dan posts a friendly blog on the Bee's website (can a bee spin a web
as well as a yarn?) several times a week.
A tragic early-morning fatality proved the value to the community of an
efficient inter-active newspaper website. Managing editor Day wrote:
There's a lot more to The Modesto Bee than The Modesto Bee.
This is a new era for newspapers. We're no longer confined to the printed
page and no longer held hostage by production cycles. Thanks to the
Internet, we can bring you the news as it happens.
I can't point to a more dramatic example than Friday, when we covered the
tragic shooting death of California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott.
Scott was ambushed during a traffic stop on Highway 99 near Ripon at 4:40
a.m. that day, a time when our newsroom usually is closed. But reporter
Chris Togneri and photographer Bart Ah You found out about the shooting and
rushed to the scene from their homes.
While thousands of commuters were stuck in colossal traffic jams because
investigators had closed northbound Highway 99, Togneri was piecing together
details of what happened. Ah You was snapping pictures. Editors called in
for early duty began planning our coverage and writing our first story. We
posted it on Modbee.com at 7:40 a.m.
It would be the first of many updates we would file to the Web that day.
Not only did we file stories, we posted several photographs and audio clips
from a news conference.
There was another dimension to our coverage on the Web: enabling our
readers to share their feelings.
We set up a forum on Modbee.com where several people left comments
expressing their horror and sadness at the killing (and at least one vented
frustrations about being stuck in the resulting traffic).
We also established a "guest book" where people could leave their
remembrances of Earl Scott and offer condolences to his family. Dozens of
people from all over California and from several states had posted comments
within a few hours of the shooting.
You can expect more of this round-the-clock, interactive coverage from
The Modesto Bee and Modbee.com.
Our normal pattern is to post all stories from the newspaper to
Modbee.com early each morning. But we don't stop there.
On most weekdays of late, we've been posting two or three fresh stories
to the Web site during the day and evening. For example, we broke the news
Tuesday on Modbee.com that a Green Beret from Turlock had been killed in
Afghanistan. We followed up with new developments, then put everything
together in a comprehensive report for Wednesday's newspaper.
We're looking ahead to the day when we'll be posting video from valley
events to Modbee.com.
We encourage you to pick up The Bee every day to get the full
complement of news, features, sports and advertising. And we want you to
turn to Modbee.com at all hours for the latest breaking news.
Either way, we'll keep you posted.
Bee Managing Editor Dan Day can be reached at 578-2332 or
The Modesto Bee's innovative approach may well serve as a model for
many other newspapers in the next few years.
Front page of The Courier-Mail
on Friday, March 17, 2006
||On March 13 the Brisbane Courier-Mail, the only daily published in
Australia's third-largest city, reduced the size of its broadsheet pages to the
more compact Berliner format, following a trend adopted by many of the world's
newspapers, notably in London and the US.
At the same time, editor David Fagan
revamped the newspaper's website, making it the most reader-friendly of
any in this country. It now resembles the Modesto Bee's website in many
ways, presenting all the day's news and features, plus breezy blogs from
the editor and several staff members, who invite readers to add their
There's even a page of photos linked to autobiographies of
its news editors and staff, so readers feel they know the person behind
Disclosure of interest:
I was a young reporter on the Courier-Mail when, shortly before the
beginning of World War II in 1939, it made an equally radical change.
Abandoning the customary broadsheet practice of filling the front page with
dull, single-column advertisements, it astonished its readers by moving the
most important news items from the inside pages to a vastly different (and
much brighter) Page One.