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Newspapers evolve through digital media

February 21, 2009

The digital world has afforded the newspaper industry many new toys to play with and many new ways to distribute the information we gather.

Thirty years ago, when I started as a reporter, all you needed was ample curiosity, some writing skill, a notebook, pen or pencil, and a typewriter.

To land a job, you usually had to take a spelling, writing and editing test, and have a clip book demonstrating some level of talent and experience.

The skills needed back then won't get you an interview at many media companies these days.

Reporters need all of the above, but they also need to know how to shoot -- and preferably edit -- video. They need to know how to write and focus their stories for both online and print. And many need to know how to create and write a blog.

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Most of you are aware of the print paper that's been around Hagerstown for more than 180 years. But our customers are demanding we present information on many more platforms than just print on paper. They also want an opportunity to voice their own opinions.

Our news and digital staffs are now offering information in many more ways and using so many more devices, it's sometimes hard for me to keep up with it all.

Here's a sampling of some of the new things we are doing:

o Want to read our headlines on your cell phone? Just this month, we've begun to offer a digital service that will allow you to access our Web site and see cell phone-compatible news capsules.

o Want to see (emphasis on see, not read) Tim Rowland's take on the news? During the next few weeks, Tim will unveil a new version of Rowland Rants. It's a video featuring Tim a la Andy Rooney. The feature also will be posted on Antpod.com, a video and audio podcast site maintained by our sister company, Antietam Cable Television.

o Want to weigh in on a story you've read in the paper? Go online and add your opinion at the end of most local stories we produce.

o If you wanted to vote for the area's cutest babies, as more than 1,350 people did, you could go online and do so.

o Lifestyle reporter Tiffany Arnold hosts the Weekend Entertainment Guide online, on Antpod.com, and on WCL-TV 30 on Antietam Cable. Tiffany discusses weekend events, including her own Top 5 list.

o Want breaking news to be delivered instantly to your laptop or Blackberry? Go to herald-mail.com and sign up for e-alerts.

o We're about ready to unveil THECalendar, the most comprehensive daily listing of entertainment, sports and business events in Hagerstown and Washington County. If it's happening in Hagerstown, you'll be able to find it on this calendar. You also will be able to post an event.

o The other new feature we've added to our home page is the Top 5. It's the five most-read stories on herald-mail.com each day. Our print editors can match their ability to place stories on the front page with the stories the online readership find most interesting.

The death of the newspaper industry is a much-talked-about subject. For the record, I want to say loud and clear, "We are not dead. We are evolving."

We will continue to be your best source of information in the Quad-State region: Not just in the paper you find on your doorstep, but on your computer, your cell phone and in the device they have yet to invent.

Count on it.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. You can e-mail him at jleague@herald-mail.com.

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