Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The story behind our Ben Franklin experiment

On the surface (hopefully), our 4th of July issue of The Register Citizen this Sunday won’t look much different to the average reader.

Behind the scenes, the approach to how we are putting it together, and what it means for local journalism and the future of the traditional newspaper industry, represent a significant departure from the way we’ve done things at this newspaper and its predecessors (the Torrington Register and the Winsted Evening Citizen) for the past 120 years.

We’re calling it the “Ben Franklin Project,” and it’s no coincidence that it’s scheduled for Independence Day.We’re working on a revolution of our own.

Ben Franklin means we’ll be publishing online and in print using only free, open-source Web-based tools. It’s a big message to ourselves and to the software companies to whom we pay a lot of money to get a traditional print newspaper out the door. We can act like a start-up, and by establishing freedom from cost structures that are out of whack with the trend in print advertising dollars, we can put more money into the core mission of local journalism and sustain it for years to come.

Ben Franklin also means we are involving readers and the community at every stage of the process of local journalism. We are “crowdsourcing” stories, so that you know what we’re working on, you are involved in what direction the story takes, you are a source, and you suggest other sources. Downtown revitalization is the project we’re tackling, and you can get directly involved in the story as it unfolds at RegisterCitizen.Com.

Ben Franklin is a one-day experiment with decades of potential impact. Let us know what you think.
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