Friday, March 12, 2010

The new Journal Register Co.

On Feb. 5 and 10, I blogged about the digital revolution that had belatedly come to the Freeman and our parent organization, the Journal Register Co.

Six weeks into the game, it's worth saying more, because after a long period of unrest and uncertainty in our shop, there's renewed enthusiasm as we plunge head-first into digital.

In doing so, we're not leaving print behind. Hardly. It's still the bread and butter of the industry. But likely not for long. Times are changing and so must we, with increased emphasis on our Website, in terms of both the immediacy and uniqueness of its content. It also means embracing and participating in social networks, thus our links to Twitter and Facebook, as well as others to come.

Our parent company has new leadership committed to doing what it will take to move the Freeman and its sister newspapers along. New CEO John Paton has built an impressive resume in print and digital. A career journalist, Paton has pledged to provide employees with the hardware and software required to advance into the new world. (Given that much of our current computer technology is relatively ancient, that's no small undertaking.) His first step - as much symbolic as it is practical - was to provide all reporters at all the newspapers with Flip video cameras. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, the Flips are easy to use and produce HD quality images. We've already posted dozens of videos on our Website and they've helped make otherwise stagnant stories come to life.

Paton also has ushered in a new era of open communications at Journal Register Co. He's blogging and talking directly to the employees and the public. You have to be a Journal Register veteran to understand the groundbreaking nature of this new atmosphere.

Equally as exciting as Paton's arrival and goals is the announcement of Bill Higginson's promotion to president and COO of Journal Register. Those of us who have worked with Higginson during his decades as a hands-on vice president can't be more pleased to know we'll be working with him side-by-side to make the company's new vision a reality.

Understand this: Journal Register Co.'s efforts are being closely watched in our industry. The company has been much maligned over the years, sometimes with justification, and its new direction already is turning heads among our colleagues. That's what happens when a John Paton - a one-time Editor & Publisher magazine Publisher of the Year - gets behind the wheels.

Many believe newspapers are dying. Journal Register Co. and the Freeman are out to prove otherwise.

Paton likes to say Journal Register is "changing the tires while the car is moving." I'll add another one: In Texas Hold 'em terminology, we're going "all in" on the digital future.

We believe this will prove just as interesting, rewarding and exciting for Freeman readers and advertisers - those we have and those we will attract - as it will for those on the inside. I hope you'll be along with us for the ride.
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