Northwest Citizen has a Front Page

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Fri, Jan 29, 2010, 3:42 am  //  John Servais

Two years ago, Jan 2008, this website changed from hand coded pages into a database driven one. In one move we added several writers and enabled commenting by anyone who wanted to (so long as they used their real name.) I had an idea how the site should develop, but wanted to do it in careful stages. Start simple and see what was needed next.

Back in 1995, I started this site as a method for bringing local political and planning issues to public notice. Issues the Bellingham Herald covered up or ignored. At the time, I thought others would soon also have websites that reached out to anyone with an Internet connection - maybe 20% of the people back then. It was 4 more years before the word "blog" was coined. It was about 8 years before anyone else started a similar site in this area.

To me, in 1995, a reverse chronological page of personal observations seemed like an obvious way to do this - and the Internet seemed an obvious way for us to all communicate more. Back in those days, Tip Johnson helped me with guest articles and - as importantly - was a person I could discuss ideas with on how to use the Internet. We used NwCitizen to good result from 1997 to 2000 in stopping Western Washington University from expanding into 17 city blocks of the Happy Valley neighborhood. Tip suggested Western look to the waterfront. They laughed at him. My, my - how time does reveal things.

Well, two years after moving to a database, we have tonight installed a front page. The purpose is to help readers learn more about current issues. The Issue boxes can give 30 words about an issue and list a half dozen articles worth reading. You see, sometimes an article written 6 months ago is still relevant and informative. With print publications, these get lost because we recycle the newspaper. Sadly the online version of many newspapers hide articles behind a firewall after a week and charge good money to see them. Seems very dumb to me because the expense of keeping old articles online is pennies.

Also, we will now feature a lead story in a large box at the page top. This allows us to make sure you don't miss some outstanding article by one of our citizen journalists.  I thank Tip for insisting over the past few months a front page was the next needed step.

On the left side is the beginning of an index to columnists. For the past few months, Ham Hayes has been writing a Wednesday morning column. I will be starting one every Monday morning. Eventually, we hope to add more columnists for other days. And Deb Gaber will edit all our columns and articles, as she has for months now, making us all look like better writers than we are. But these new design elements will take a couple weeks for us to get used to and using correctly. Right now their contents are a bit rough. Give us some time.

I want to thank John Meloy, our programmer, for coding the site two years ago and for today's front page.  He is an outstanding local web designer and he contributed some of his time and reduced his rate for this work as a contribution to our community discussion.  

I hope these format changes will lead to a better website. We are still inventing how we communicate online. I had a correct vision 15 years ago - and I have a vision now. Time will tell if the new vision works. 

Tip Johnson  //  Sat, Jan 30, 2010, 12:59 pm

And it is a volunteer effort!  Good job everyone.

Citizen journalists and opinion writers will become a more and more valuable source of public information as traditional media struggle with their bottom lines and corporate directions.

Exploring and evolving useful and reliable frameworks for citizen information may be crucial to our continuing experiment with democracy.

Nice work on the front page.  I like it and hope it will encourage more people to get involved and contribute.

Northwest Citizen has a Front Page

NwCitizen adds new design elements to its home page. The publisher explains what and why.

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1 comments; last on Jan 30, 2010

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