Last updated: August 10. 2014 10:58AM - 664 Views
Lora Abernathy News Journal Content Manager

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When I tell people what I do for a living, I sometimes am met with a pitiful glance, their countenance revealing, “Well, you poor thing. It’s just a matter of time before you’re out of a job, working for a ‘dying industry’ and all.”

First, I don’t worry about job security — ever — even during what others feel are uncertain times. God has always provided, and I’m a hard, adaptable worker and would find the fun working at McDonald’s flipping burgers.

Second, I don’t worry about it because community newsrooms will continue to have a dominant place in their communities, much longer than those in major metros.

The big cities’ TV stations or newspapers may produce or write an occasional story from our area, but they won’t be here on a daily basis to inform readers that the city is considering adding a $10 fee to residents’ water bills, or that Clinton County commissioners voted to spend money on a new radio communications system, or that John Doe, who lives down the street, got one year of prison for stealing his grandmother’s credit cards.

The Wilmington News Journal will be here, because people will always want to know those things.

During the last two years, our mobile readership has skyrocketed, and traffic to our website from the typical computer screen remains impressive.

Our print product still rocks, and thousands of readers continue to find their local news by flipping through the pages with their morning coffee.

While we live in a digital age, our print products continue to be a strong vehicle for advertisers to reach customers, and for readers to get their news. Civitas Media, our parent company, recognizes this and has invested time and money in a much-improved print product for the News Journal.

You have probably noticed the newspaper underwent a complete redesign recently, based on feedback from readers, advertisers and those of us who work for Civitas.

A series of ads that have been running reads, “You asked, we listened.” Among the changes described in the ads are:

• Bigger type size and better line spacing to allow readers to more easily read every story.

• A more standardized headline style to make the presentation of news and information less confusing and easier to find and follow.

• Bigger photographs to take better advantage of the fact that a picture really is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to the activities of local newsmakers and organizations.

• More consistency in our page-by-page presentation, so readers will always know where they can find obituaries, the weather report, opinion and commentary, and other features that are important parts of every edition.

• Better ad placement, especially with our clutter-free front page advertising packages.

We are thrilled to showcase this redesign, and, from what I’ve heard from some of our readers, you’re enjoying it, too.

We’ve also made improvements to our main digital product, our website.

In June 2012, when I was still the online editor for the News Journal and four other sister newsrooms, I led the launch of the News Journal’s redesigned website. It was a giant undertaking, but it was a much-improved upgrade from the cluttered site we’d had for years.

It was easier to navigate, it was easy on the eyes and it allowed for more important stories to be visible on the home page, among many other attributes.

A lot of work was required on the backend, though, just to get a story on the site, from having to copy and paste text, to manually resizing every image in PhotoShop for the web.

Around Thanksgiving last year, Civitas unveiled another website for the WNJ, and for all of its properties.

There were many great things about it: A stronger navigation bar, better e-editions through which readers could flip and platforms for high interaction and engagement with readers.

From the perspective of the newsroom, it saved us countless time each week putting stories online. With a click of a button, “Send to Web,” the story immediately went to the site from our software — photos resized and all.

Plus, all of that wonderful reader-submitted content found in our print product’s inside pages could be put online with that same click of a button, adding much value to the website.

It faced many challenges, though, and again, with keeping our readers’ feedback in mind, an upgraded site was relaunched recently.

Among our improved and upgraded features are:

• Easier to read headlines with one-click accessibility to stories.

• Faster loading and navigation for increased convenience and speedier response.

• Better organization of top stories, sports, opinion, features, entertainment and other specific news and information categories.

• Better connectivity and one-click integration with popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest and more.

• A rotating display of the top stories of the day.

• More multi-media presentations including videos and photo albums.

• A home page calendar featuring the latest upcoming events and happenings.

• More options than ever for advertisers to reach the broadest possible audience, and to better interact with consumers.

As long as people want to know what is happening in their communities, there will always be a market for local news, whether in print, online or in a manner not yet conceived.

Civitas Media has an unmatched commitment to this notion with its motto, “Serving you your world.” In fact, the word “Civitas” is Latin for “of the community” or “sense of community.”

Maybe the pitiful glances from people will never go away — but this newsroom is not going anywhere either.

Lora Abernathy is the content manager of the Wilmington News Journal. She can be reached at 937-382-2574 or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.

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