Brad Rourke's Blog

Announcing Washington Times Communities

November 3, 2009 · 4 Comments

wtc_avatar_200I am proud to announce the launch of a major new initiative that I have been working on with a few partners. The formal announcement will come later this week, but I wanted to give a preview to my readers because I am so excited about it.

Today, we are soft-launching the new Washington Times Communities. This is a new social journalist network tied into The Washington Times.

Along with partners Jacquie Kubin and Joe Szadkowski, we have been working furiously for the past months to get this in shape.

My role was to help design the management structure for this new network and to add in what I know about social networking and blogging from my experience with various other initiatives. I am also taking part in the day-to-day management of the Communities.

What It Is

We think that we have developed something that is somewhat unique among these kinds of things. Many newspapers have “community blog” sections. (In fact, the The Washington Times had one, which this new initiative replaces.) These can have widely varying content quality, widely varying updating schedules, and are typically hidden from view and separate from the rest of the newspaper’s online space.

The fundamental problem for many news organizations is that these things are hard to manage and it’s hard to know what kind of quality you’re getting.

We have created a structure which we think makes the Washington Times Communities “manageable” from an organizational perspective while at the same time open enough to make it a real blog network. At the same time, we’ve organized it so that, from a reader’s perspective, it should be easy to find what you are looking for.

There are really six Communities:

Each of these communities is led by a “mayor” who essentially curates the content for each community. Within each Community, there are between five and ten (for now) “neighborhoods.” Each of these Neighborhoods is a blog, with one author responsible for the content.

So we’ve created a hierarchy, where each of the community “mayors” is acting like the editor of a newspaper section or magazine, with each author having a specific “neighborhood” beat.

It’s all volunteer, we are not staff for the paper.

What’s Different

While we don’t claim that this is a revolutionary idea (after all, it’s a blog network, nothing earth-shaking), we do think it’s an innovation in how to approach something like this. There are a few things that make this different, in my view:

  1. There is direct involvement with senior management at the paper. The paper’s senior managers take a personal interest in this, all the way to the top.
  2. There is a direct tie to the regular online space of the paper. Content from the Communities will be featured on the main page of the Times. This means that there is a greater chance for the community content to be seen by the many millions of unique visitors to the Times’ front page per day.
  3. The writers are handpicked. People have to be invited to take part as an author. We chose participants keeping in mind both quality of their work, potential for growth, and willingness to devote the energy it takes to promote the Communities through social networks.
  4. There is support at every level. Individual authors are supported, mayors are supported by management. Authors support one another.
  5. There is ongoing innovation. The initiative is committed to iterating and learning at a rapid pace so we can best improve it.
  6. There is a constant stream of content. Every author is committing to a certain number of posts per week, so there will always be something new coming from the Communities.

I sincerely hope you will take a look, poke around, comment on a few articles, and give your feedback.

Like other blog networks, viral word of mouth will be key. You can help this initiative out immensely by sharing any articles you find interesting and by spreading the word. The Times management will be watching this closely and we want it to succeed!

Public Good, A New Online Space

Public Good

Public Good

There’s another aspect of this new initiative that I am very excited about. You might have noticed above that there’s a Community called “Public Good.” I am in charge of that, and it’s an online space devoted to examining various takes on public life and community today.

I have brought together a terrific portfolio of authors, each who is writing their own blog that takes a different perspective.

These are the “neighborhoods” in Public Good:

  • Dispatches From The Heartland, by John Creighton: Community life and leadership lessons
  • Faith: The Flip Side, by Allison Addicott: How faith and politics intersect around the globe
  • Making Change, by Donna Rae Scheffert: About people who are getting involved in helping others and making a difference
  • Public Square Today, by Brad Rourke: What’s happening in public life — and why it matters (this is my column)
  • Teaming Up For Success, by Carla Ledbetter: People celebrating good things that happen through successful teamwork
  • Truth Be Told, by Carla Harper: Thinking a little deeper about our lives, our country and our values
  • Went West, by Sutton Stokes: A transplanted easterner reflects on culture, politics, and the pursuit of happiness from his new vantage point in the Rocky Mountain West
  • Young, Willing and Able, by Angela Hopp: Emerging leaders accomplishing great things

As you can see, this is a varied group!

I know that many of my readers are deeply concerned with public life and thought leaders when it comes to many different aspects of it. I hope that you will get in touch to talk about ways that I might include your perspectives, perhaps by showcasing some of your work or through an interview or podcast, or through a guest post.

See you around the Communities! Drop by Public Good!

Categories: blogs · journalism · social networks

  • http://www.twitter.com/afmarcom Angelique

    Okay, so now that you have finally launched, are you relieved or terrified? ;)

    I just checked it out, and there are a lot of interesting blogs. In fact, I just subscribed to one.

  • http://www.elvenwork.com/ Leo Dewey

    That explains it! We’ve been wondering why the hiatus in weekly updates and your blog. Now we understand: You’ve been working like a demon on the new WT Communities ptoject. Very cool concept, unlike any we’ve seen elsewhere. We wish you every success with it and will drop in often. Congratulations, Mr Mayor! :-)

  • bradrourke

    Thanks everybody!

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