We choose to go to the moon

By February 22, 2011

Today, The Davis Enterprise launches a new community journalism effort and declares its independence from the confines of a struggling newspaper business.

Today, we flip the power switch on a decade-old computer system that routinely has limited our ability to reach out to and interact with the Davis community.

Today, we join a revolution of community news organizations dedicated to reinventing a  journalism that is sustainable in the 21st century.

Today, we write and edit live on the Internet, and post photos that we publish in the newspaper hours, or even days, later.

Today, we become not just a newspaper, but a news organization.

For too long, we have shied away from the growing relevance of digital journalism and treated our website as the red-headed stepchild to the favored newspaper. We geared our entire mindset toward the printed newspaper and, almost as an afterthought, happened to dump that news online.

No more. Today, we invert that dynamic. We’ll publish to the Web first, getting the content to you as it’s created. Later, we’ll pluck the best stories and the best photos and put them in the newspaper; you’ll have to go to the website for audio and video.

Our editors may have space only for a short story and one or two photos in the newspaper. On the website, however, we’ll showcase the longer version and give you a dozen, maybe even two dozen, photos.

Two products. Equal weight.

Both have their strengths and weaknesses. The Internet is faster, so we’ll use that to get you news as we write, shoot and record it. The Web also allows us to better categorize the news. Using WordPress, we can zoom in on specific areas and give you every story categorized as “Jeff Christian,” “Picnic Day” or “Amgen Tour of California.” We then can create a new offshoot web page and readers can see those stories as they evolve over time, any time.

A newspaper has a one-day shelf life. The web, on the other hand, lives forever.

However, the newspaper gives us something to hold, flip through and feel. We’ll continue to give you that treasured product, too.

But in both, our community will be our core, our mission and our why — to provide you with the relevant information you need to improve your life. Should you pay $10 for that movie ticket? Should you vote for that guy? We give you the information you need to act.

And we’ll give you a louder voice. Unlike our old site, reader comments live with a story forever. Readers can unite, engage, disagree and debate with a back-and-forth dialogue that will spur our community.

That all exists right now. But the future, too,  is pregnant with possibility. Imagine mini homepages featuring hyperlocal news from neighborhoods around Davis. Like Sacramento Press, an online-only news publication in Sacramento, we can hold workshops, in-person and online, to train residents in citizen journalism.

These embedded journalists in Elmwood, Wildhorse, Mace Ranch and El Macero will funnel content into http://www.davisenterprise.com via WordPress. As soon as it’s uploaded, our editors, whether at Mishka’s or in Milan, can give it a quick edit and — boom —  you have The Davis Enterprise, Wildhorse Edition.

As online editor, I’ll set the tone, provide the vision and help readers understand the power behind this new tool. Comment on this story — or any story — and I will see it. I will respond. We all will.

The Davis Enterprise has lagged, but today we make a strong commitment and take a giant leap into digital relevancy. It is a commitment made over the past five months by everyone at The Enterprise, over and over again.

Lag? Yes. Out of it? No.

The United States, too, lagged  behind the Soviet Union in the space race.

On a hot day in mid-September 1962, President John F. Kennedy stood before a crowd at Rice University in Houston to talk about the role the United States would play in space exploration.

Before Kennedy’s election to office in November 1960, the Soviets were the first to launch a satellite into space, the first to send a living creature into space, the first to take photographs of the dark side of the moon. A few months after his inauguration, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space by orbiting the Earth.

Less than a week later, the Bay of Pigs invasion rocked the Kennedy administration.

Six months later, in Houston, the president did not fumble. He did not mince words. He did not shy away.

“We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them,” Kennedy said. “And they may be less public.

“To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.”

The newspaper industry, too, has made mistakes and had failures as the world has evolved at what the late president called “a breathtaking pace.” For Kennedy, that pace included television, nuclear power and spaceships. For us, it’s been the Internet, e-mail, cell phones, smart phones, apps and digital tablets.

So we accept the challenge and embrace the opportunities posed and offered by the digital journalism frontier.

We mean to be a part of it. We mean to lead it.


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