NTH Birthday: Technological changes expand paper's presence
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
During the past year, The Newnan Times-Herald has made changes that have taken the newspaper into the community — and expanded the newspaper’s presence on the Internet.
Compared to many businesses, much of newspaper work has always taken place outside the walls of the office. Advertising representatives spend much of their time calling on area businesses, and news reporters and photographers plan their calendars around events, meetings and interviews that take place somewhere other than 16 Jefferson St.
While readers see minimal difference in the finished product, news archives are no long on disks in the Times-Herald building but stored via Internet several states away. The “cloud” computing model — and the use of laptops — means reporters can do much of their work outside the newspaper office.
Staff writer Sarah Fay Campbell is an unabashed fan of the laptop. “I can’t imagine doing my job without a laptop. No, that’s not true. I can imagine it — and that’s why I would hate to do it,” she said.
Campbell has been using a laptop to take notes at meetings and events for almost 10 years. “It revolutionized things for me,” she said.
“I never was very good at taking notes with pen and paper while people were talking. I could never get everything they said — not even close,” Campbell said.
A long meeting could result in a reporter’s notebook with writing on every page. Looking for a specific quote or fact could be time-consuming and frustrating.
“When my notes are typed out in front of me, searching them is so easy — and months or years later, I can call up the notes from a particular meeting and see exactly what was said,” she explained.
Campbell said she can use quotes “with pinpoint accuracy” and has learned how to use her laptop to take notes while looking “an interview subject in the eye.”
Campbell and other reporters find the laptop a godsend when there is an event to be covered late at night or out of town. Usually Wi-Fi Internet service is available at a restaurant or other location, meaning the reporter can access SkyQue and write stories while miles away from Newnan.
“I can write the story wherever I am,” Campbell said.
Joey Howard, The Newnan Times-Herald’s classified manager, also oversees the newspaper’s growing online presence. The newspaper’s Facebook page has quickly grown from about 800 “likes” to more than 1,100, and there are 575 followers on the Times-Herald’s Twitter feed.
Howard rises early to post links to stories on the Facebook page. Most content is posted to the website — times-herald.com — between 5-7 a.m., and there often are links to photo galleries. Occasionally, he posts “maybe a story or two later in the day,” he said.
Howard has been personally selecting items for Facebook since late July. Prior to that time, the page had an automated feed, which funneled only “straight hard news” links, he said.
Now Howard tries to link to “a well-rounded blend” of stories selected specifically to appeal to Facebook enthusiasts.
He finds the Facebook readers are often interested in quirky stories that might not make the front page. A story about two churches that began collaborating because of a scheduling snafu with a summer food program attracted several “likes” and a comment on Facebook.
“This is a great opportunity to get a different audience,” Howard said. Facebook and Twitter provide a way to connect with someone who “is not a print subscriber.”
Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters. The short, pithy format lends itself well to the 24-hour news cycle, Howard said.
One of the first tweets every morning is a weather forecast. “Anytime we have any kind of weather issue out there, it goes on Twitter,” Howard said.
The newspaper’s Twitter and Facebook pages “are geared to send people to the website,” he explained. In addition to Facebook and Twitter links, times-herald.com offers easy links to:
• coupons.com . This site offers a portal to coupons for groceries and other items.
• MyConnection. A digital replica of the newspaper’s free total market coverage publication is now online. MyConnection has been distributed to non-subscribers for several years, but the content is now available to subscribers as well.
• the new Newnan-Coweta Magazine website — newnancowetamag.com . The magazine, published six times a year, is distributed through the newspaper.
• an upgraded photo gallery. Not only can photographs taken by the staff be purchased, but newspaper pages are now available in pdf format, as well.
Ellen Corker, the news editor, noted subscribers get the paper delivered to the door as well as full access to the digital edition and a searchable database of stories.
“Readers get a whole package,” she said. She noted readers who are out of town can easily keep up with the Coweta news using their computers.