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A conversation between readers and the editor of The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

Monday, May 24, 2010

Readers invited to become part of creating The Morning Journal

For a few hundred years now, American newspaper editors have been deciding what the news is and presenting it to readers in print, and more recently also online.

That's a one-way process, with the editor making the decisions and the readers catching whatever the editor throws their way. Aside from writing letters to the editor, readers are passive consumers, rather than active participants in deciding what the news is, what stories they will see and what questions will be asked to create those stories.

Not anymore. That whole model is changing at The Morning Journal and our parent firm, Journal Register Company and its 17 other daily newspapers and many weekly papers.

Now, we want you to tell us what stories you would like to see covered that are not already being covered. What questions do you want the answers to? What problems need uncovering? What solutions to community problems are being overlooked?

On July 4, 2010 -- the 234th anniversary of American independence -- The Morning Journal and other JRC daily newspapers will declare their independence from the traditional newspaper business. We will publish in print and online, providing news stories that have been suggested and developed with the involvement of readers. These papers and websites will be made using only free tools available on the Internet rather than the proprietary software and systems typically used in this industry to make a newspaper and its website.

It's all part of the second wave of the Ben Franklin Project initiated by John Paton, the new CEO of JRC, who is transforming the traditional newspaper company into a media company that uses the web and digital technology to bring readers from the outside to the inside of the news gathering process. The first JRC Ben Franklin papers were successfully published last week in Lake County, Ohio, and Perkasie, Pa.

By expanding the Ben Franklin Project, readers' needs and wants will be better-served. The newspapers themselves will show how to become independent of older technologies whose expense and limitations can be barriers. JRC newspapers will become more involved in their communities by making readers a part of the process of creating the paper and website.

It all comes down to this: I want to know what stories you would like to see covered that we are not already writing, or not writing fully. Who should we be talking to, and what should we be asking to get the whole story?  Under the traditional system, we've written stories and then days later heard from readers who have provided new tips, facts or insights that, when we followed up, made the story more complete, and put it more clearly in context.

So, now, instead of waiting to hear from readers after the fact, we're asking them to become part of the process from the beginning by suggesting story ideas, questions to ask and sources of information to make the story complete.

I'll have more to share as our Ben Franklin publication deadline nears. Please join us in this historic effort. We are literally reinventing the newspaper business to best serve 21st century readers, and we need your help to get the job done.

Share your ideas and suggestions by clicking on the comment link below. Or, send me an e-mail at editorofthemj@gmail.com .

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like very much to read about local Lorain news stories. More actual citizen based news stories. Human interest about local people here in Lorain. Years ago there was a "society page" section of the Journal where there were stories about Lorainites. Ex: Feature more stories about good cooks in our area. More about volunteers, stories that bring a smile to your face.

May 25, 2010 at 12:22 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I buy a newspaper because I value the editorial decisions made by reporters and editors, also known as trained journalists. Readers aren't trained journalists. With regard to content, their "needs" and "wants" probably won't align. If the Ben Franklin Project will include stories that are pitched by untrained readers, rather than trained journalists, then it seems to me that the value of the newspaper decreases. I guess you get what you pay for. If you're getting free advice from readers about stories to pursue, the product will probably reflect the investment.

May 25, 2010 at 10:03 AM 
Blogger Tom Skoch, Editor, The Morning Journal said...

Don't sell readers short. Editors everywhere are always trying to guess what readers need and want to see and they assign stories accordingly. Readers then react to those stories with valuable tips and insights that the news staff can check and which often improve the value of the story. So, it makes sense to move the reader participation from the end of the writing process to the beginning. The stories will all be written and edited by "trained journalists" but will benefit from the assistance of readers who have valuable relevant knowledge that checks out. People make news, and the closer you get to the people in the community, the more news you uncover in more depth.

May 25, 2010 at 11:18 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever some worthless corporate executive got paid to come up with this idea, a half-hearted repackaging of a plan that's been tried and failed repeatedly for decades, it was too much.

May 25, 2010 at 2:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe one in 10 readers will have "valuable relevant knowledge that checks out." The other nine will have an utterly useless combination of personal agendas and crackpottery that, far from adding value to the paper, will actually take it away, by wasting your reporters' and editors' time as they inevitably are forced to respond to e-mails that would otherwise be deleted on sight.

Your fundamental mistake is to turn off the inherent skepticism that is essential for any newspaper to function effectively. You begin with the approach that people are telling the truth. That's the wrong approach.

May 25, 2010 at 5:59 PM 
Blogger Tom Skoch, Editor, The Morning Journal said...

No journalism values or standards are being dropped or changed.
Healthy skepticism is not being abandoned.
What changes is the inclusion of readers early in the news gathering process, rather than at the end, or not at all. And the use of technology that is less than a decade old to do journalism more quickly, effectively and economically.

May 25, 2010 at 10:33 PM 
Blogger Larry Crnobrnja said...

It is undeniable that the foundation of Lorain was built on the backs of those employed in the steel mill.

Find out what's happening inside those gates. Maybe even put together a series of articles celebrating those who worked there before it's all but a memory.

May 26, 2010 at 12:56 PM 
Anonymous Patricia said...

Come on people. Mr Skoch is giving us an opening to be involved in the stories that we want to read.
Instead of complaining or denigrating the MJ for offering this chance - participate with an open mind and see what happens.
Everyone is always complaining about the content that the MJ offers - here's your chance to offer your input and share in the creation of the news that is covered.

May 26, 2010 at 5:14 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

News Articles I'd Like To Read: (1) -First Energy's Lorain Edgewater Plant: The history of this facility, why it is to be demolished, and what is planned for the property. (2) -IRG Lorain (Old Ford Plant): How things are progressing with luring new business, how clean-up is going, any chance of luring CATERPILLER or a large employer? (3) -When is Cooper-Foster Park Road to be widened? How about Tower Blvd? (4) Will Lighthouse Village add a multi-plex theater? Lorain/Amherst families deserve a quality movie going experience. (5) Is there any chance that National Gypsum will re-open? Could the Lorain School District contract that any and all dry-wall for the new Lorain High be produced in Lorain?

May 26, 2010 at 6:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can something be done to stop the center-turn lane on East Erie Avenue from being used as a high speed passing lane??? Signs, pavement paint " NO PASSING ", and enforcement.....or all of the above!

May 27, 2010 at 3:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK...can you look into whether a City Manager run government can benefit Lorain? Is it true city hall workers get a paid lunch and part time workers (city council as an example) get full time benefits and what is the justification? What are the salaries of everyone at city hall? What about the city workers driving aimlessly around for hours? How much nepotism, if any, goes on at city hall? How about a complete investigation on how they have allowed Joe Arendt back into city hall, and that he has another part-time job in another city? That ought to give you a start..thx..Spartan..

May 27, 2010 at 4:11 PM 
Blogger Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

I'd like to see a more in-depth look at the Lorain school system. What solutions have similar cities found to fund their schools/improve their academic results? How successful has the income tax solution been, funding-wise, in other cities that are similar to Lorain? What do people in those cities think about having their income taxed in this way? Does this create a longer-term, more stable funding source for schools? What grassroots efforts are needed to change the way that Ohio funds schools?

May 27, 2010 at 10:24 PM 
Blogger Kevin Salisbury said...

I must say I feel strongly in the direction The Morning Journal is moving and I am proud to a part of it.

May 28, 2010 at 11:00 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do a story on how companies print business cards for people without making sure that they are a legitimate business (i.e. seeing articles of incorporation, checking if they are registered with the Attorney General, etc...). There are so many of these illegal businesses here in Lorain and that means they do not pay taxes on the money they make either. If you go into almost any of the independently owned gas stations and corner stores, you will find business cards that people have left on the counter for customers. Most of these only have a phone number and no address, that means not legitimate usually. Another place to find these cards are at auto parts stores. Street mechanics print them for under $20 and they look legitimate, but if they screw your car up, you will soon find out that they are not legitimate. I say collect these business cards, and turn them over to the City Income Tax Dept. so they can collect. I personally have turned in about 10 of them already. That goes for the magnetic signs on the side of vehicles too. Just because they printed a sign, doesn't mean they are legit.

May 29, 2010 at 12:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see more positive stories about Lorain.

I believe there are more people in this town doing good than bad. However, the negative news always gets the top billing. More often than not, the tragic and bad stories in Lorain get posted in the front section and at the top of the newspaper. If a positive story about Lorain is printed, it is usually posted in the back and/or towards the bottome of the page. But yet if bad stuff happens in another town, it seems to end up in the back of the newspaper more often than not.

Sometimes I feel like Lorain's trash is being used to sell newspapers. It makes the other communities feel better about themselves. Everyday someone posts on this site, "Thank God, I don't live in Lorain or Thank God we moved from Lorain". I don't think every negative news story has to be reported on. It's not helping the city and its image. If your a CEO and thinking about bringing a business here all you have to do is read a few MJ articles about Lorain and that will deter you.

If you are going to report every negative story, then report all the good stories with equal vigor. That means you have to step away from the police scanner and get out and find good stories.

May 30, 2010 at 12:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a story about the Morning Journal shutting down.

June 4, 2010 at 8:13 AM 
Blogger Tom Skoch, Editor, The Morning Journal said...

1. Anonymous wrote: "If you are going to report every negative story, then report all the good stories with equal vigor."

2. Anonymous wrote: "I'd like to see a story about the Morning Journal shutting down."

Answer 1: We do cover a great number of "good" stories with equal vigor, and put many on the front page as warranted. But it seems to be human nature to remember bad news more than good news. In any case, we report on life in this area as it is, good and bad, and we don't try to spin the coverage either way. We want to be like a mirror in which the community can see itself in a clear, true light.

Answer 2: You will be disappointed. The Morning Journal's local roots date back to the 1800s, and we're now part of a new initiative called the Ben Franklin Project,to give this newspaper and others a long and healthy future.

June 4, 2010 at 11:44 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Social Security office in Lorain needs more space, have they considered locating in the St. Joseph Hospital complex. There is ample covered parking, centrally located and would be a good neighbor of the VA complex, but most of all it would help to keep St Joe's open, if the new proposal of a developer falls apart.

June 9, 2010 at 12:53 PM 

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