Bringing the outside in, and reviving a newspaper library

After 105 years operating out of the same building in downtown Torrington, Conn., my newspaper will be moving soon to a new office.

And for 105 years, our business model has pretty much remained the same: Spitting out our version of the news once a day, on newsprint. Along the way, we merged the Torrington Register with the Winsted Evening Citizen, switched from afternoon to morning delivery, started using color ink, added a Sunday edition, and launched a Web site.
But really, not much about the process for gathering news, and the cycle by which we report it, changed through more than a century at 190 Water St.
Until now.
It might sound dramatic, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that our group of newspapers, and our company, are going through the first real change in history to our core business model.
New CEO John Paton has declared a “digital-first” philosophy and aggressive goals for shifting focus, resources and profit centers away from the declining print manufacturing aspect of the business to reinvest the core franchise of journalism and advertising, across many different multimedia platforms. We will be a company that partners with the community, with citizen journalists, with entrepreneurial storytellers, rather than produce and peddle our “news product” in an isolated, one-way process.

Our office move is both prompted by these changes – and has taken on more significance because of them.
We see it as an opportunity to tell this story.
But also to build a physical space that reflects a philosophy of “bringing the outside in.”
What we have in mind is the combination of a “Community Journalism Lab” that would offer public wi-fi, computer work stations and staff assistance and training to community bloggers and citizen journalists, and an opening of our newspaper archives to the general public for research, genealogy projects, etc.
We have newspaper editions on microfilm going back to the 1800s, and an incredible filing system on index cards that stops abruptly in the mid-90s when the newspaper’s librarian position was eliminated, but is still an invaluable and precious record of our community’s history.
These files currently reside in a dark and dusty, closet-like room in our newspaper offices and are shut off to the public except by special request.
We would like to open them to everyone, to let people know they exist, and to incorporate their availability into a broader engagement of the community and citizen journalists in telling the story of present-day Torrington and how the past weaves into that story.
We expect it to also drive discussions about how to digitize all of these archives and allow us to truly “bring the outside in” without it requiring a trip to our physical location.
What do you think?
Any ideas on the physical setup of something like this, or creative and/or practical thoughts on how we can use it to improve our reporting of the news and engagement with readers?

One thought on “Bringing the outside in, and reviving a newspaper library

  1. Matt – I think you and your team are doing a terrific job – embracing new concepts about delivering news and information. You've put the RC back on the map – so to speak. Bravo.


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