Changes coming to paper

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2008

There&8217;s an old Chinese proverb that&8217;s as much blessing as curse: May you live in interesting times.

Journalists in the 21st Century &8212; at least this early part &8212; probably live in the most interesting times of all, as far as media are concerned. What makes it so interesting, especially for an old print guy like me, is the explosion of media, especially with the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s.

Newspapers have been around for a long time. There&8217;s an old industry joke that goes something like this: Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439. Shortly afterward, he printed the first newspaper. The very next day, everyone said this newspaper thing couldn&8217;t last.

Email newsletter signup

Hey, I didn&8217;t say it was funny. I just said it was an old joke. But it&8217;s mostly told to show that panicked cries about the death of newspapers are generally overrated. But many newspapers &8212; especially larger dailies like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the L.A. Times really are hemmoraging readers. Comm-unity newspapers &8212; like The Demopolis Times &8212; don&8217;t lose readers in the same way. Largely that&8217;s because the newspaper is still the place to get accurate, truthful and timely information.

That said, there are some solid changes coming to The Times &8212; changes that will do the paper and community a lot of good.

Our Web site,, is being redesigned to provide more and richer content to our readers.

I&8217;ll give you an example of what I mean: Right now, we&8217;re limited in how many photos we can put on our Web site. With the advent of our new system, those limitations will be removed. If we take 20 usable photos, they can all be uploaded to the new site.

Needless to say, the new site is much more user-friendly. And it&8217;s also more admin-friendly as well.

That means our old model of publishing the site every night after we&8217;ve hit deadline on the print product will change.

Instead, our Web site is going to be much more dynamic. Expect updates several times a day, as stories are finished and edited.

Our current site is much more difficult to update, and working with it is often like wrestling an angry grizzly bear: we might win, but we feel beat all to heck and back when we are done.

We&8217;ll have the capability to make slide shows, audio slide shows, podcasts and even insert video into our stories.

And updating the site will take much less time. As an experiment, I updated the new site while our sports editor updated the current one. It took him 45 minutes. It took me 15.

Those additions will make a much-improved site, but our goal at the paper should be the same, whether we&8217;re using those bells and whistles or not: a well-written, timely, informative newspaper. Our readers have the right to expect those things from our product, whether they read the print or online version.

Another exciting development is the &8220;spotted&8221; feature, which allows site users to upload their own photos to an affiliated Web site. This will allow the community to show us what is going on in their lives, and make our site that much more dynamic. The new site goes live July 13.

Another change readers may notice, this time in the print edition: Today&8217;s sports section starts on page nine and flows to page 10. Usually, sports at The Times has gone from the back page, jumping in toward the middle. I&8217;d never seen that in a broadsheet newspaper until I came to work here. It&8217;s not an unusual thing in a tabliod (like the Chicago Sun-Times or the New York Post). I&8217;m glad to see our sports page read like the rest of the newspaper.

Bobby Mathews is managing editor of The Times. Call him at 334-289-4017 or e-mail him at