We’ve got some catching up to do

IT’S been a while and thank you to those who sarcastically asked whether I was ok after missing last week’s full council meeting; sometimes I wonder if that question shouldn’t be reversed and whether any of us are ok after a full council meeting given the ongoing reluctance over all these years to make it a more meaningful event. Stop droning on about that again, Osley etc etc.

I haven’t actually been away but sometimes you have to focus on the work which puts another 50p in the meter and for the last few months I’ve been working more with one of the sub-editors here, Allan Ledward, and a tech co-operative based in Finsbury Park called Outlandish on revamping the New Journal’s website. It’s needless to say that our online offering in the past has not always done justice to the work we put into the print product each week. Our previous websites have been hit by frequent outtages, navigation problems, a squirrelling away of our arts section and a lay-out constructed of too many grey lists and squinty fonts.

Outlandish, who recently made the well-received school cuts website for the National Union of Teachers, have changed this with a modern new look and more routes to the stories you are looking for through the ‘hamburger’ menu icon in the top right hand corner. The article pages are easier to read, and there are more options for photos and video.

Of course, with any switcharound of this kind there are a few teething problems and the Noddy know-alls will always ask why have you put that there and not there. In this field, you quickly find there is always somebody who knows better, usually on Twitter, on how a website should look and how the links should fall. The typeface is too big, it’s too small, I can’t find my letter on dog poo, that picture of Theo Blackwell is ten years old. Daring to write a post like this, will no doubt lead to somebody immediately finding a problem and calls to put everything back as it was.

But even after a couple of weeks, people are already reading more on the site and staying longer, finding it a clearer, easier experience under Outlandish’s design. It does not replace the print product: there’s a great loyalty and expectation towards the paper which we do not take lightly and is frankly quite humbling when reporters go out and about on community news stories, and there’s a tradition people still retain of picking up a CNJ on Thursdays as part of their week; a small example, the parents who see their kids win the schools’ cup final trophy would rather have a newspaper clipping than a printout of a web page.

Biased, already old-fashioned maybe, I still think stories look better in ink than pixel and it’s easier to catch the eye of somebody just browsing if you lay out a printed page well, but we can’t kid ourselves that the landscape hasn’t changed and with the help of Outlandish, who got involved because they wanted to help campaigning, investigative and independent journalism, hopefully our work will be seen more by more people than ever, despite these squeezed times for the industry.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, and now it is up and online, we have some catching up to do… 

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