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New Web site ‘powered by you’

We’re pleased to announce that we’re relaunching our Web site Monday afternoon at theunion.com.

We’ll be adding more features, improved navigation and a colorful banner, starting with a field of wildflowers photographed here. It’s pretty cool looking.

But the redesign is more about substance than style.



A phrase we like to use in our newsroom is that the site is “powered by you.”

The site will allow you to more easily contribute your own creations – essays, poems, opinions, photos, even videos.




We hope it will empower you to become a “citizen journalist,” sharing your club news, calendar items, and photographs of your children, family and pets.

For example, you can return from a Little League game and upload images, scores and other results to your personalized page on the Web. You can create photo galleries and share them will fellow team members, even out-of-town family members.

The Union already publishes a substantial amount of reader-generated material, and this redesign will allow us to more easily “reverse publish” some of the Web material into the printed newspaper as well.

“Heading into 2008, Web 2.0 and citizen media have taken root as significant elements in the news of the future,” according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington, D.C.

“Web 2.0” refers to the second generation of the Internet that allows readers to interact with each other. Nearly 40 percent of Americans who go online were engaged with user-generated content, according to a study from the Pew Internet and American Life project. Almost 65 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds said they have created material for the Web, up from 57 percent in 2004, the study added.

The site also will include improved blogging tools, allowing you to create your own blogs.

We also will be offering “group” blogs, which feature members of our community writing about sports, healthy eating, organic farming, real estate, downtown business, energy efficiency, home design and other topics.

Some of our staff members also will write blogs, providing the “story behind the story” and other interesting tidbits. Some are their own thoughts, and some come from readers.

For example, did you know Tom McClintock is holding a fundraiser of up to $6,900 each at a “beautiful home in Santa Rosa” next week? As a reader said: “I am invited to a fundraiser for Tom in Santa Rosa. It is a nice place, but a long way from the 4th Congressional district. Couldn’t they have organized a fundraiser up here, or are we just too poor to be of interest?” That’s a intresting blog item.

Some of the features will roll out gradually because we want to be able to sustain them indefinitely – staff blogs or video, for instance.

The site also will provide more conveniences, such as searching an archive by date.

Thanks to your feedback (and our experience), we also are improving commenting tools. We hope they will help quash what our Web content manager Zuri Berry calls the “wild west” in the comment section. Our policy is no personal attacks, stay on point and no racial or ethnic slurs, but some people break the rules.

This time around, we will be more vigilant in enforcing our rules. Like driving, commenting is a privilege, not a right.

We hope the changes will persuade more people to join the comments, without fear of being attacked. (Warning: Your comments on previous stories might not reappear right away on the new version of the Web site because of technical issues.)

The Union staff will continue to work hard to improve our Web site, understanding that the future of our business is on the Internet, not just in print.

We also will be on hand throughout the process to answer your questions and coach you through the procedures of posting your material or photos online.

As the project for Excellence in Journalism concludes: “News organizations, or at least some, have become places of risk and innovation and feel growing connection with audiences, something we could not have said a few years ago.”

Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235, jeffp@theunion.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.


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