By Pack, Thomas; Pemberton, Jeff
Online , Vol. 22, No. 6
The Cutting-Edge Library at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writing ad copy, selling T-shirts and coffee mugs for a Web photo store, and trying to predict the next natural disaster are all in a day's work for the 20-person News Research Services (NRS) staff. In fact, these are small components of a much larger commitment to enhancing library services that has put NRS on the cutting edge.
Besides providing exemplary work in traditional news library activities-- meeting the information needs of 600 editorial employees in the fast-paced, deadline-driven, work-around-the-clock world of newspaper publishing--NRS has stepped out in front in three major areas:
* Intranet Content Development:
NRS developed and maintains the newsroom's intranet where it has placed valuable collections of both commercial and internal resources for the newsroom and other departments. As part of content management, the library also negotiates for online services and subscriptions for end-users' desktops.
* Repurposing Content:
NRS has also been deeply involved in the corporate Web site, ajc.com. Here, the general public and small businesses have access to photo and article archives which have become successful profit centers for the library.
* Proactive Client Services:
The library has trained the newsroom staff to become self-sufficient image archive searchers, provides Internet training, and plans to train staff to search the new software that powers the newspaper's text archive.
All of this support allows reporters to locate their own answers to basic questions up front, leaving NRS staff more time to develop and repurpose content, work with vendors, and still help the newsroom with the deeper research. ONLINE interviewed NRS Director Ginny Everett and several of her staff to see where the library is today and what it has planned for the future.
A LIBRARY TURNAROUND
The Atlanta Constitution, first published in 1868 during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War, became a proud voice of the industrialized "New South." The Atlanta Journal was founded in the 1880s and soon began publishing the work of some of the nation's most famous writers, including Erskine Caldwell, humorist Will Rogers, and New Yorker founder Harold Ross.
James M. Cox, three-time governor of Ohio and the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 1920, acquired The Atlanta Journal and WSB ("Welcome South, Brother") Radio in 1939. He soon founded WSB-TV and purchased The Atlanta Constitution. The newspapers merged in 1950. Today, The Atlanta Constitution is published in the morning; The Atlanta Journal is the evening edition.
Cox Enterprises, now one of the largest communications companies in America, operates sixteen daily newspapers in fourteen markets with a combined Sunday circulation of 1.6 million. The company also has extensive interests in weekly newspapers and cable TV systems. In 1996, Cox Enterprises reported record revenues of $4.6 billion.
Despite the parent company's success, research services at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were not always on the cutting edge. NRS Director Ginny Everett said, "The story of our library is the story of a turnaround. Our editor Ron Martin is somebody who really understands the power of information. He understands what it can do for our news staff and our end product, our newspaper. In 1993, he decided to do some revamping in the library, and he brought in Beverly Shepard, a reporter with excellent leadership skills and a law degree, to make really tough decisions."
Everett said those decisions resulted in many personnel changes. Shepard hired people with strong information backgrounds. Major restructuring resulted in a dynamic new environment and a staff, including six staff members who were in the department when Shepard arrived, who were unleashed and empowered. …