JRC takes community newsrooms on the road

Taking the approach that one size doesn’t fit all communities, the Journal Register Company’s (JRC) Digital First initiative is taking the newsroom café concept to other newspapers, but in a van.

The newsroom café originated with the Register-Citizen in Torrington, Conn., where inviting the community into the newsroom for coffee, blogging lessons or a transparent glance at the inner workings of the paper made sense. But for the York Daily Record, which is located outside the city, the same concept just wouldn’t work as well. There are similar stories at other papers, so in an effort to reach those readers, four newsroom vans will make their way around the communities serviced by the New Haven Register (Connecticut), the York Daily Record (Pennsylvania), St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twin Cities area) and the Bay Area News Group/San Jose Mercury News (San Francisco Bay Area). “And certainly, if those are successful they will be in other places as well,” said Steve Buttry, JRC director of community engagement and social media.

According to Buttry’s blog, The Buttry Diary, the Twin Cities van, for example, will be stocked full with Wi-Fi, laptops, video and audio equipment, coffee, and donuts. But the mobile newsrooms are just one part of more initiatives JRC plans on implementing in the next year, including university partnerships and remodeling newsrooms, among other plans.

But the community seems to be the main focus for JRC, which recognizes its significance combined with the digital era. “It used to be you needed a printing press or TV tower to publish the news in some fashion,” said Buttry. But even then, there were neighborhoods in a community that didn’t have a beat reporter. That changed when citizens started blogging about their neighborhoods and interests. By opening the newsroom, they are not only fostering an open relationship but teaching members of the community to be citizen reporters, which the paper can then utilize. “We think we can stimulate the community covering itself aspect and link to their content,” he said. And in that way, he believes they’re building a healthy business for the future. To say the least, JRC is innovating in new ways and has come a long way since their days of Chapter 11.

–Katrina M. Mendolera