Election nights, I usually spend some time guesting with one of the electronic media, then visiting a couple of campaign offices before sashaying into the office to fire off an editorial.
Last night was different — I actually had to put in some work. In fact, I never made it out of the office. City editor Susan Duncan and I handled editing and some phone call duties while reporters were rushing about out in the field, grabbing interviews and staying on top of the evening’s events.
The most fun, though, was working with our new website. It being just a couple of weeks old, this was our first chance to use it during an election. Robert Koopmans, who also happens to be an excellent photographer, was assigned to be the web reporter, filing feature updates every half hour or so.
The system we’d worked out went pretty well. Robert emailed Susan his copy and pictures from his laptop, Susan gave them a quick look, then sent them over to me. My job was to format the pictures, go into the website system and create the files, then post them to the website.
The technology takes a bit of getting used to and, frankly, still has a few bugs to work out. Last night, though, it worked just fine for the most part, and by pushing the system hard we learned quite a bit about how to get the most out of it.
We’re experiencing a huge increase in hits on the website since we changed over from the old one. We also get a lot of comments posted about stories, and the number of votes for our online polls quickly runs into several hundred. On the subject of STV, it topped a thousand, and I expect this week’s poll on water meters will at least match that.
The new website, of course, raises the whole question of whether newspapers should even get involved in such things. Their business is the printed page — how much information should people get without paying for it?
That question doesn’t even matter if your print edition is a freebie, but when readers support you by buying your paper six days a week, it’s a little trickier. The answer is, though, that the website doesn’t, and can’t ,provide the depth and breadth of news and information that a daily newspaper can.
It’s value added; it complements the paper rather than competes with it. And it’s turning out to be a ball producing it.