Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Need to Get on the Beam

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Need to Get on the Beam

Article excerpt

Maybe my 7-year-old son will have his newspaper beamed directly to a computer chip in his head," says Dennis Sodomka, considering the future of newspapers, "but someone will still have to organize the information. That's where reporting and editing come in."

Sodomka should know. The 52-year-old executive editor of The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, daily circulation 90,556, started out as a reporter at The Chicago Daily News, later becoming night editor. He went on to editor positions at the Charlotte News [which closed in 1985] and The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina before assuming the mantle of Chronicle editor 12 years ago.

"I'm an old hard-news guy who loves nothing better than a good crime story, some disaster, or a hard-hitting investigative piece," Sodomka confesses. "I still think news sells newspapers. But I'm also frustrated by the blinders newspaper people put on themselves seeing new ways to do things as threats.

"I'm excited about the possibilities of the Internet because for the first time we really can get the news out to people before anyone else," he says. "And for the first time we've got ways to really connect with our communities like never before."

The Chronicle has a thriving newspaper Web site that shows a healthy profit, says Sodomka. It started in 1995 when newsroom personnel were so successful in developing a niche golf site devoted to the Masters Tournament that four new positions were created for employees to build a newspaper site named augustachronicle.com.

At about the same time, says Chronicle New Media Director Mike McLeod, the paper's parent, Morris Communications Corp., started an online division to service its 31 dailies (it also owns nine nondailies) and scooped up a couple of Internet service providers as well.

The Chronicle's online department which is now budgeted for 16 full-time employees has spun off on its own, creating commercial Web sites for others and helping a number of nonprofits get their information on the Web, among other activities. It also enjoys a strong partnership with local CBS station WRDW, as well as with CNN/Sports Illustrated to cover the Masters Tournament.

Next summer, the newspaper site will add a community portal offering a directory of Augusta Web sites and a search engine to find those sites; community publishing ("Build your Web site with us"); searchable community information; and classifieds. …

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