An employee blog shakes up our office

We recently launched an internal blog at Foothills Media Group for employees to float ideas and concerns, debate the direction of our local business and simply share information that sometimes is missed due to divisions between departments and work schedules.

The idea came from Tom Skoch, editor of a sister Journal Register Co. daily newspaper, the Morning Journal of Lorain, Ohio.
Tom has a public blog aimed at his readers. But for more than a year, he has also written an invitation-only blog for his newsroom staff, critiquing each day’s news coverage in print and online, and offering tips, suggestions, story ideas and training.
And he recently launched a second invitation-only blog called “Staff Talk” that is geared more toward the employees setting the agenda for discussions.
We expanded the concept to our entire operation. And one week after launch, 100% of our 40-plus employees had registered for a Google account and signed in to view and participate in our blog.
We included links to all of our products, Twitter feeds, and blogs such as CEO John Paton’s and the new media thinkers (i.e., Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen) who are advising our company. We also put up an employee telephone and email (and Twitter) directory, a page linking to commonly used forms and documents (employee handbook, mileage and expense forms, time cards, advertising rate cards, etc.), and our own organization’s version of the “Ten Commandments” (#1 – Be Nice … #8 – Over-Communicate, etc.). We’ve also put up a Wiki-style page for new employees meant to be updated and expanded by existing employees adding everything they wish they had known when first starting here.
Topics of discussion on the main blog have included relaunching of our Safety Committee, our niche magazines converting to an all-glossy format, how our digital audience has grown to become larger than our daily’s print audience and ideas for the launch of a new weekly Auto section.
A major topic now and for sure in the coming months is our impending move to a new office location after 105 years in our present building, and the very public statement we intend to make about how it represents changes in our business model and approach to journalism.
Employees started discussions about missing ad deadlines affecting missing news and pressroom deadlines, about the need to hire a proofreader in the graphics department, frustration over the error rate coming from our off-site company printing operation … and even a complaint about the state that some employees are leaving the women’s bathroom in.
And a post by our sports editor sparked an immediate change in policy – sparking a great deal of good will in the community in the process. He blew the whistle on out-of-control story comments on high school sports stories that were lewd, embarrassing and abusive toward young female athletes, and we found a temporary solution as we and our company as a whole discuss options.
From challenging our story comment policy – to complaining about the bathroom – it’s amazing what folks will say in a format like this that they would never put in an email to all employees, or even dare to or think to, in some cases, “say to the boss.”
What a great idea from Lorain’s Tom Skoch. And how great is it that Journal Register Co. has created an environment where this comes natural as its CEO blogs and asks employees and readers to influence every major decision.

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