Circles, blogs and forums on the way |

Circles, blogs and forums on the way

Now that The Union has launched its redesigned Web site, we are moving forward with adding more features to, which already is western Nevada County’s most popular source for online news and information.

First on the list, as soon as next week, will be The Union Reader Circle.

Regular readers will recall that soon after my arrival at The Union (almost two years ago), I solicited names of those who wanted to be members of a Reader Board. However, the trauma of changes that were going on at the time prompted me to back off, feeling that it would be better to bring in reader advisers after things had stabilized.

Stabilization took longer than expected, and by then we began thinking that a reader group organized through – which began growing by leaps and bounds last year – was a solution that would allow more people to participate, and make interaction much easier.

The Union Reader Circle will be a new e-mail service, but it is intended for readers of both the print and online versions of The Union who would like to help us make our community newspaper even better.

What use do we hope to make of this innovative two-way connection? Through the Circle, readers will have a opportunity to:

• Offer feedback about new content plans, or design changes.

• Help us find sources for local stories.

• Suggest feature ideas or give us breaking-news tips.

• Weigh in on decision-making about coverage.

• Sit in on daily news meetings or weekly Editorial Board meetings.

Signing up (or signing off) will be easy. Members of The Union Reader Circle will get periodical messages from me, they’ll be able to contact me with advice about both Web and print edition issues.

I’ll share the dialogue on The Editor’s Blog, another daily feature that we’ll launch as soon as the Reader Circle is under way.

We’ll let you know how to join within the next few days. Readers can participate as much or as little as they want, and signing up or signing off will be easy. We promise that your e-mail address will only be used for The Union Reader Circle.

“Blog” is shorthand for “weblog,” a phenomenon that exploded in the mid-’90s along with the Web itself. A blog can be defined as a Web site created by an individual and focused on topic of personal interest. It may include chronological writing, like a diary, or links to other like-minded sites.

While living in Evanston, Ill., before moving to Nevada County, I experimented with two blogs – one about the future of journalism, featuring links to stories about news media change, the other about a unique institution, the Chicago hot dog stand. Both sites are dormant, since I haven’t had time to keep them fresh.

What will The Editor’s Blog on be like? It probably will take a direction of its own after we launch. But I suspect it will be one part about our discussions with The Union Reader Circle about newspaper and Web site issues; one part a shorter version of this weekly column, perhaps with observations about our community or the media; and one part serendipity.

I have a few role models to follow. One is my friend Chris Cobler, editor of the Greeley Tribune in Colorado, whose blog has been up for about nine months. His follows the blog tradition of “short is better,” which seems like a good idea for a daily effort by somebody who has to run a newsroom as well.

Doug Clifton, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, also is getting attention for his blog, which began in January. He writes about every other day, and his blogs are more like columns. I suspect my blog will develop it’s own style, with the help of reader feedback.

The third thing we are going to try is topic-centered online forums. That is, readers will be given the opportunity to engage in debate on hot issues, spinning off news stories, letters to the editor, columns or editorials.

We’re not sure how this is going to work. We have to hash it out with Swift Newspapers’ Internet team in Reno, which hosts, so we’ll keep you posted.

One reader who can’t wait for this feature is Nevada City’s Russ Steele, a freelance writer and former Air Force techie who has started his own media-watch blog (, which monitors the accuracy of letters to the editor and other commentary in The Union and other media. Also, if you are interested in Nevada County transportation issues, check out his other blog (


Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears each Saturday.

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