Some of you may have noticed the half-page ads in the paper. Or many of you reading this are habitual online readers and have already seen it. For the rest of you, the Local launched its redesigned website last week and It’s opening up some new territory for this 50-year-old neighborhood publication.

Newspapers have generally been slower to develop online for a number of reasons. A lot of it has to do with professional print people adapting to new news habits. It’s tough to invest a lifetime in a craft and then come to the realization that a lot of your old tools just don’t cut it anymore.

Also, it’s been tough for small news organizations like this one to redirect resources away from the tasks of putting out the print product. When you’re running at capacity with the staff you have, it’s a challenge to take on new tasks and develop new things without putting your old, but still very valuable, product at risk.

We’ve finally found ourselves at an intersection where the technologies available (and affordable) to us intersect with what we think this staff can handle. So what does that mean?

First, we’re going to be on a more open online schedule. We have the ability to easily post news when it happens. When we learn something that shouldn’t wait for our weekly print schedule, we’ll post it online. We can more easily bring you stories, photos and even video on a daily basis.

Second, we have much better opportunities for readers to be involved with online comments. Have an opinion on Fairmount Park’s ongoing deer cull? You can respond to letters as they appear in real time. Some readers have already taken advantage of this and I’d encourage others to join in. All comments are subject to editorial approval so our online comments won’t be gobbled by anonymous vitriol and spam.

Third, we want to develop more ways for Local readers to contribute. If you see anything you think your neighbors should know, send us photos or drop us a tip. Or if you have an opinion that you’d like to share, let us know. We can get it online quickly. You can e-mail me at The Local has always been an open publication, available to everyone. It’s your paper and your website.

Finally, we’d really like to hear from you about how we can improve. Our new format is flexible and gives us opportunities to try new ideas with relative ease. Want new features? New sections? Places to contribute or just categories you’d like to see developed? Let us know. We’re all ears (see my e-mail above).

We hope the website gives the readers what they need and what they can use, from  our online calendars to local dining and shopping guides. And of course, we hope it gives Local readers the opportunity to more easily learn about what’s happening in their neighborhood and give them the opportunity to say something about it.

Pete Mazzaccaro

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