Tag Archives: John Paton

Journal Register Company ideaLab: 30 Days of Problem Solving

The members of Journal Register Company‘s ideLab huddled up at the company’s corporate office for a day-long summit this week. It was the first time most of the 18 members (15 members and 3 honorary if you’re counting) met, though they’ve been sharing ideas via Facebook (ideaLab – Journal Register Company) since the group was announced.

For those unfamiliar with the program, members of the ideaLab were selected from an open application process that generated almost 200 comments on Journal Register Company CEO John Paton’s blog. Armed with their choice of mobile phone, a Netbook and iPad, members of the ideaLab get 10 hours of paid time per week to experiment and innovate.

The day started with an overview of the ideaLab’s rules and goals.

The first rule: … the only rule …. THERE ARE NO RULES.

The goals: Play, experiment, learn and teach

The meeting included time with JRC Advisory Board members Jay Rosen and Betsy Morgan where they provide Labbers (Note: Members are still working on a better collective noun) with some insight and direction on how to lead Journal Register Company.

You can read more about the day’s events from Labbers (that new name can’t come soon enough) Tom Caprood, Chris Stanley and Kelly Metz. You can also go back and watch Ivan Lajara’s captured stream of the day.

By day’s end each member of the ideaLab was to present one problem (though a few tried to sneak more than one onto the list) that they would address in the next 30 days — knowing that during that time they were free to update, amend, alter or completely change what they picked.

Here’s their list: (track them on Twitter with the hashtag #JRCideaLab)

Angela Carter: (@ReachAngi) — Grow traffic during non-peak hours. Angela will work with newsroom staff to develop an audience outside of her newsroom’s normal web traffic cycle.

Ivan Lajara: (@ivanlajara) — Publish content as it happens. Ivan will work with newsroom staff to continue to train co-workers so the staff can deliver news to the audience as rapidly as possible.

Tim Ingle: (@timingle) — Increase advertiser engagement in digital. Utilize new devices to showcase potential reach on new media platforms to local advertising clients.

Kelly Metz: (@Kelly_Metz) — Improve the use of crowdsourcing in her newsroom. Work with newsroom staff to effectively and precisely crowdsource on every beat in the newsroom.

John Lazzeri: Better understand our audience and who we aren’t reaching. John will coordinate Journal Register Company circulation managers to share data and suggest new marketing plans.

Kaitlyn Yeager: (@kmyeager) — Increase live content offerings including video and chat. Kaitlyn will train staffers on tools and will work with the newsroom to learn when best to utilize live tools.

Dennis Kaffenberger: Reduce the fear factor of technology changes through training. Starting with ideaLab members, work with those across Journal Register Company in need of training and support on new technologies.

Marissa Raymo: (@marissaraymo) — Develop an SEO kit for Community Media Lab bloggers. Marissa will train community bloggers — and staff bloggers — to drive (and measure) traffic.

Michelle Rogers: (@ideaLabHeritage) — Incentive co-workers to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital. Train co-workers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering.

Tom Caprood: (@TomCaprood) — Remote filing of all content. Tom (working with Karen) will use ideaLab tools to teach co-workers to file stories and edit and file photos and video.

Karen Workman: (@OPdogblogger) — Remote filing of all content. Karen (working with Tom) will use ideaLab tools to teach co-workers to file stories and edit and file photos and video.

Chris Stanley: (@ca_stanley) Live high school football scores. Starting with his newsroom, Chris will work on delivering high school football scores as they happen via the web.

Chris March: (@loudercmarch) — Deliver “Digital First” arts and entertainment coverage that represents New Haven’s vibrant arts scene. Chris will work with newsroom staff to augment existing coverage and will crowdsource additional content to grow the Registr’s offering.

Ben Doody: (@BenDoody) — 100% coverage of all high school football games, guaranteed. Utilize crowdsourcing and social media to ensure his newsroom has complete coverage of all regional high school football games.

Anthony SanFilippo: (@anthonysan37) — Change the traditional sports coverage model. Anthony will change how sports is delivered to the sports fan/reader by utilizing web tools and video and non-traditional storytelling.

Karl Sickafus: (@karlsickafus) — Work with Journal Register Company staffers to develop non-traditional niche microsites.

Lee Moran: (@leeamoran) — Improve community engagement and marketing. Lee will showcase the community, business, promotional opportunities available in her market and grow audience involvement.

Viktoria Sundquvist: (@vsundqvist) — To go “all in” on Digital First. Improve content offerings online by training staff, establishing multi-media content standards for her newsroom staff.


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Ben Franklin 2.0: Independence and the ideaLab

By John Paton

Our successful Ben Franklin Project ( http://bit.ly/apHRbA ) has shown the world that in an industry that can be bereft of good ideas that smart people with the willingness to take a risk can produce revolutionary results.

But like all successful revolutions we need to continue the journey. And like all successful revolutions we have a goal – independence.

On July 4th we will declare our independence.

We will declare our independence from the kind of thinking that has kept our company and industry from transforming to a multi-platform news company. And we will declare our independence from an industry that ties itself up with expensive proprietary I.T. systems and processes that are outdated almost the day they are installed.

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Start the clock!

From the blog of Journal Register Company CEO John Paton:

The Ben Franklin Project – We Are On Our Way

Folks, I am happy to tell you we have two teams who are taking on The Ben Franklin Project.

In the next 30 days, the News-Herald, one of our dailies in Ohio, and Montgomery Media, one of our weekly groups in Pennsylvania, will, from assigning to editing – create, publish and distribute news content on the web and print, using only free tools available on the Internet. You will find a complete description of the project here: http://tinyurl.com/y5chfkp.

The News-Herald team will be led by Executive Editor Tricia Ambrose and Managing Editor Laura Kessel. At Montgomery Media the effort will be led by Managing Editor Emily Morris and Online Editor Andy Stettler. The teams will work on separate projects. We want to highlight that in the new news ecology it isn’t just the size of the newsroom that counts but how well it harnesses the power of the web and the audience.

You can read the rest of his post here.


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Video, photo and other tools still needed

Since the announcement of the Ben Franklin Project by Journal Register’s CEO John Paton, we have received some tremendous interest and some wonderful feedback spurred by those watching and those helping.

To date we’ve received suggestions of about 100 tools — free tools — we can use to carry out the digital first, print last transformation of Journal Register. Even with that list we’re still short. In some cases we have a tool in mind — using ShareThis is an obvious choice for content sharing — but we don’t want to overlook another option because we are choosing one we find familiar and/or comfortable.

JRC advisor Jeff Jarvis — who offered WordPress, Google Docs, and Flickr as editorial options when he blogged about the Ben Franklin Project — wrote:

… The rest of the process of publishing a newspaper is more complicated — at least to me, as I don’t know the tools. I’m not sure all that can be done with free tools but I’ll bet it can all be done in the cloud …

The beauty of this process is that it’s a collective effort to find the right tools. We’re not claiming  we have the right ones on our list — which we’ll post in the coming days after another round of feedback — we just want to make sure we do as much as we can to find the right ones.

That said, here are a number of the spots where we are still looking for strong feedback including:

  • Video editing — Journal Register bought the Flip cameras so the FlipShare software doesn’t make the “free” list. Other ideas?
  • Video streaming — Is YouTube our answer or are we better looking at Vimeo, Blip.tv or others?
  • Photo editing — Color correction, sizing, etc.
  • Accounting — Primarily ad placement, tracking and billing

We’ll continue with the crow-sourcing of story assignments on another day. Again, we have a few ideas but we’d like to hear how you think they’ll work.

As always, thanks for the help, the feedback and support.


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From Nieman Journalism Lab’s This Week in Review …

Journal Register Co. head John Paton details his company’s plan to have one newspaper produce one day’s paper with only free web tools. (Jeff Jarvis, an adviser, shows how it might work and why he’s excited.)

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Comments from John Paton’s blog on The Ben Franklin Project

Sam Piroton Says:
April 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Reply

Here is another good link; topic “a google newsroom”. really worth reading; was written by Benoit Raphael, director of lepost.fr.


Thanks to my friend @davanac for the alert.

Toby Murdock Says:
April 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Reply

Great post! In particular I like what you had to say here:

How do we learn about the arguments in our community? How do we work with the people we used to call the audience and who are now participants in the collection and dissemination of news? What is our role here? Is it to add context and our expertise as journalists? And do we bring value to the community by creating a place for ideas and stories to be shared and discussed with a mixture of professional and amateur content? And always how do we do this when the deadline is right now?

Those indeed are the key questions. And I think that the answer is that much of the role media going forward will be guiding and filtering content that their community produces. It increases the depth of coverage while controlling your cost structure.

For example, I saw this article in one of your papers’ sites. It covered a high school sports game, and amounted to one sentence (understandable, given staff constraints). How much deeper do you think the coverage of that game could be–paragraphs, photos, quotes, even videos–if you opened up your sites to your community to contribute to and then empowered your editorial team to manage and curate those contributions? It is the winning “crowdsourced” formula that so many sites are succeeding with: SeekingAlpha, BleacherReport, GDGT, AllVoices, etc.

One thing about all of those sites, however: none were done on WordPress, because WordPress is meant for one, or at most a dozen, contributors. But true crowdsourced sites have hundreds or more in their communities contributing. So all the crowdsourced pioneers listed above had to build their own systems to be able to manage such a community.

That’s where we come in: Grogger is a platform for grogs (“group blogs”) that are specifically meant for crowdsourced publishing. Our platform is free to use (though there are modest charges for advanced features, just like WordPress) and would be a great fit for your project.

Would be eager to help out on the project. Let us know!

nona breaux Says:
April 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Reply

I think The Reporter is always up for a challenge. We have a small staff, like everyone else, but we’ve been doing great at video, live streaming from a few events with the netbook, Web first, tweeting, facebook, etc. So, chosen or not, we’d like to be part of this experiment in some way.

Vince Carey Says:
April 13, 2010 at 2:48 am | Reply

This is one of the more interesting ideas out forth. I would like to hear more on how it would work time wise and how we would use the web to enhance the coverage

Andy Hachadorian Says:
April 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Reply

After thinking about this during the course of the day, and reading and re-reading your e-mail, I believe it’s worth a try. (I suppose I should have talked to Frank or Ed first, but what the heck…) I believe I understand your goals here and I think with people like Karl here as well as working with the corporate team, it probably could be accomplished. I think it’s one of those things we sit around scratching our heads saying, “Heck, I dunno. We’ve never tried that before…”

In terms of quality journalism, I believe the Daily Local does that. We are fortunate to have a staff of very smart kids. My bosses always told me to “hire staff that’s smarter than you. They’ll make you look good.” So that’s what we’ve done. We have the Dave Zeitlins, the Danielle Lynches, the Tom Kellys and others and they’ve rewarded the newspaper with lots of honors from their journalism peers. I’d put my staff up to anyone’s. I do believe, though, that if we reconstructed the newsroom and the way we do things, they could do even better work. I still think they are burdened with a lot of crap stuff which I am still working on how to solve. It’s not an easy problem to solve although I’m guessing our Community Journalists play a part in that solution. Not to mention the model of do what you do best and link to the rest. I see a day not too far away when the paid reporters work in tandem with the CJ staff. And we have meetings with the public and as a huge team, we all push the news out together. It’s still a little fuzzy, but that’s how I see it. Maybe we should get a group of editors together and spend a day or two sketching out the newsroom of the future – although the future is now…Whaddya think?

Sam Piroton Says:
April 12, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Reply

Very interesting post again! Let me bring my 2 cents. A similar operation was set up a few weeks ago by 5 public-run media, here, in Europe. it was called “huis clos sur le net”. Goal was to isolate 5 journos, with Twitter and fbook as only news source. No tv, no radio, no smartphone, no newspaper. They had to figure out how to use twitter/FB, see if it was reliable, control-able, how to check facts and so on… The 5 journos were all social media newbies.

For those who understand french, their blog:

More links:




The experiment was controversial, because biased. 5 newbies, so not really used to the tool. Neither can yu imagine having twitter ON, and not being able to listen to radio or TV. And because it was heavily advertised, false news/rumors started circulating…

So, im curious to see how your test will develop. But i’d say, if you want it to be efficient, really interesting, don t start from scratch. First, build a good following/follower ratio; well trained people.

My 2 cents…

Jeff Johns Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Reply

Here are some suggested tools:

Ad Creation: http://bannersnack.com

Photo Processing / In-Print Ads: https://www.photoshop.com – OR – http://aviary.com/

Online Publishing: http://wordpress.org (download and run on any site for free) – If set up properly you could use this as your entire publishing system and reverse publish to print. Have everyone type out articles in WordPress, edit, update, edit, update, live online and then export articles under category of ‘print’ each night. Workflow would have to be worked out but it could work.

Just some suggestions off the top of my head.

Tom Valentino Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Reply

I, too, am very intrigued by the possibilities of The Ben Franklin Project and would love for The News-Herald to be chosen for it. With the talents of our staff, I think we can really get something amazing out of this.

John Bertosa Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Reply

I just want to second what Tricia Ambrose said about Project Ben Franklin. I know the other reporters and editors here at The News-Herald would enjoy the remarkable challenge.

Tatiana Burdiak Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Reply

I came across this article today and thought it related to your proposed question. It is about how journalists are using social media in their day-to-day work and the instant powerful connection between the writer and the reader. Thought I would share.


Laura Kessel Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Reply

We at The News-Herald are eager to take on this project. It’s bold and forward-thinking, and we look forward to telling our stories and reaching out to our coverage area — and beyond — using these new tools.

As the methods of delivery of news change around us, we need to keep up, and through this effort, can prove to ourselves and our readers that we’re going to be here and providing the journalism they’ve expected from us for 130 years … just from a different portal.

Tricia Ambrose Says:
April 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Reply

How exciting!

The News-Herald would love to be the site of Project Ben Franklin.

We have a newsroom full of journalists excited by the possibilities offered by today’s technology and are eager to serve our communities in new ways.

Morris Hagerman Says:
April 12, 2010 at 10:29 am | Reply

I am not sure I can speak for the Oakland Press, but would love to see it here. We have more on line readers than print. I think this might push us in the right direction and serve a community that wants it.

Carol Sauve Says:
April 12, 2010 at 2:38 am | Reply

We are a weekly but I think the Ann Arbor Journal should be your beta. The A2 Journal is less than a year old and has a community that will be highly involved with this process. Heritage gets the job done with short editorial and advertising staff, so I believe the whole team would look at this as a blessing. Please give us your consideration as a viable choice.

Patti Paul Says:
April 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Reply


I’ll volunteer to help in any way that I can. It would be cool to work with Bruce & Jon on a project. Our newsrooms are weeklies, probably not the target you’re looking for, but what do I know. We’re still trying to get people to discuss what we post. We do have heart though.

Jack Kramer Says:
April 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Reply

Ditto – New Haven volunteers..

Phil Heron Says:
April 11, 2010 at 11:28 am | Reply

Consider us your first volunteer. I find myself working more and more online most days. We are up to our neck in Twitter, Facebook and constantly updating the site, so I say let’s give it a shot. I’ll convince those staff members not on board to jump in.

By the way, remember the story of the girls who committed suicide on the train tracks?

Today we have one of the stories I most wanted to get, an interview with the third girl who was there that day but backed away from the tracks at the last minute. She tells, fairly starkly and in her own words, what happened that morning.

My guess is we’re going to get some serious blowback from those in the community who believe we already have sensationalized the story, but I still think it’s a story that needed to be told. It’s the lead on our site this morning, with video.

The girl herself did not want to be on video or have her picture taken, but she gave us a shot of herself.

I’d love to know what Jim Willse thinks of it.

Philip E. Heron
Delaware County Daily and Sunday Times
Phone: 610-622-8818

Aaron Nobel Says:
April 11, 2010 at 8:03 am | Reply

We volunteer.

Jemimah Knight Says:
April 11, 2010 at 12:53 am | Reply

This looks a fascinating approach to follow. Nice attention to content. Do you think it will help the publications economically?

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Getting Started

From John Paton:

The Ben Franklin Project: A Bold New Experiment

If going forward, we are going to be part of the new ecological system for news then we need to learn how to harness the power of that system and earn our place in it every day.

How do we learn about the arguments in our community? How do we work with the people we used to call the audience and who are now participants in the collection and dissemination of news? What is our role here? Is it to add context and our expertise as journalists? And do we bring value to the community by creating a place for ideas and stories to be shared and discussed with a mixture of professional and amateur content? And always how do we do this when the deadline is right now?

Well, in our case we are just gonna try. And if we fail we are gonna try again. And we won’t stop until we get it right.

In the next 30 days, we are going to attempt to produce one single edition of one of our newspapers using only tools available for free on the web. Using social media and other digital tools available to us we will crowd source the news assignments, creation, editing and publishing of content. And we will do all of this in real-time with constant updates to that newspaper’s website.

Our focus will be on working the new news ecology to see where we as professional journalists fit in this new system and how we best serve our communities. We will also use free software available on the web to create tools to help us manage our relationships with advertisers and readers as well as invoicing tools.

We’re calling this The Ben Franklin Project and it will be led by Jon Cooper, our head of digital content. Coop will be joined by me, Dan Sarko, our chief digital officer; Adam Burnham, our head of sales and Bruce Hollows, our director of planning and development. Jay Rosen (www.pressthink.org) and Jeff Jarvis (www.buzzmachine.com) from our Advisory Board will be helping us along the way.

We’re looking for volunteers. Will it be your newsroom?

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