Bringing the outside in, and reviving a newspaper library

After 105 years operating out of the same building in downtown Torrington, Conn., my newspaper will be moving soon to a new office.

And for 105 years, our business model has pretty much remained the same: Spitting out our version of the news once a day, on newsprint. Along the way, we merged the Torrington Register with the Winsted Evening Citizen, switched from afternoon to morning delivery, started using color ink, added a Sunday edition, and launched a Web site.
But really, not much about the process for gathering news, and the cycle by which we report it, changed through more than a century at 190 Water St.
Until now.
It might sound dramatic, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that our group of newspapers, and our company, are going through the first real change in history to our core business model.
New CEO John Paton has declared a “digital-first” philosophy and aggressive goals for shifting focus, resources and profit centers away from the declining print manufacturing aspect of the business to reinvest the core franchise of journalism and advertising, across many different multimedia platforms. We will be a company that partners with the community, with citizen journalists, with entrepreneurial storytellers, rather than produce and peddle our “news product” in an isolated, one-way process.

Our office move is both prompted by these changes – and has taken on more significance because of them.
We see it as an opportunity to tell this story.
But also to build a physical space that reflects a philosophy of “bringing the outside in.”
What we have in mind is the combination of a “Community Journalism Lab” that would offer public wi-fi, computer work stations and staff assistance and training to community bloggers and citizen journalists, and an opening of our newspaper archives to the general public for research, genealogy projects, etc.
We have newspaper editions on microfilm going back to the 1800s, and an incredible filing system on index cards that stops abruptly in the mid-90s when the newspaper’s librarian position was eliminated, but is still an invaluable and precious record of our community’s history.
These files currently reside in a dark and dusty, closet-like room in our newspaper offices and are shut off to the public except by special request.
We would like to open them to everyone, to let people know they exist, and to incorporate their availability into a broader engagement of the community and citizen journalists in telling the story of present-day Torrington and how the past weaves into that story.
We expect it to also drive discussions about how to digitize all of these archives and allow us to truly “bring the outside in” without it requiring a trip to our physical location.
What do you think?
Any ideas on the physical setup of something like this, or creative and/or practical thoughts on how we can use it to improve our reporting of the news and engagement with readers?

About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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One Response to Bringing the outside in, and reviving a newspaper library

  1. Matt – I think you and your team are doing a terrific job – embracing new concepts about delivering news and information. You've put the RC back on the map – so to speak. Bravo.

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