Report to Readers: You’ve got questions? I’ve got (some) answers
When the Monitor switched to its new publishing system for the newspaper and the website this week, our first priority was to simply get the paper out the door and into your hands on time. A low bar, perhaps, but mission accomplished.
The change has meant teaching our newsroom staff a new page-design system, new protocols for preparing photographs, articles and graphics for the paper and the web, a new writing and editing system and more.
When everything is finally running smoothly, the new system will have modernized our production methods, improved our ability to showcase photographs and stories online and greatly enhanced our online presentation on mobile devices. These days, mobile users (folks who read the Monitor on their phones and tablets) are about 10 percent of our traffic, and that figure will only grow.
We’ve been training for the past several weeks – amid high school sports tournaments and the final days of the election. And with all that going on, the technology hiccupped repeatedly (a mild description – perhaps “belched” would be more accurate) in our first few days.
In other words, the switch hasn’t come without challenges. I’ve been swamped with calls and emails from readers with questions. Here are some answers:
*From a woman in Bow: “I sort of like the look of the new Monitor website, but where the heck are the archives?”
This reader was referring to the nearly 10 years of stories available on the old version of the Monitor website which readers (and journalists) could use for reference. They’ll be back! We had hoped to transfer the archives seamlessly from the old system to the new, but it wasn’t quite that easy. (One early attempt resulted in coverage of last summer’s Olympic Games being dated as if they occurred this week – not too helpful!) Fixing this is a priority. We’ll get the archives back – and will let you know when we do.
*From several callers from across the region: What’s with the list of newspaper titles at the bottom of the website homepage? Has the Monitor been bought out by a giant corporate chain?
Nope. The family-owned company that publishes the Monitor is called Newpapers of New England. It owns several other newspapers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts too. That’s not new. The new list on the website allows you to check out those publications too, by clicking on their titles.
*From a man in Webster: “Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or does the printing suddenly look different in the Monitor?”
Your eyes are (probably) fine. With the new system came some changes in the fonts and styles we are using for headlines, photo captions and the Sports Scoreboard page. Some are working as we hoped. Others will need some small adjustments. Adding to your eyesight suspicions: For the next few days we will actually be producing the newspaper with both our old system and our new system. That means some pages will look like the always have, and some will include the new typefaces you’ve noticed. This is extremely temporary. We’re hoping to shift completely to the new system shortly.
*And in a related question from multiple readers: The new website may look nice, but the stories seem old. What happened to the news?
Of course, our goal for the website is fresh news! Our temporary decision to produce some pages on our old system and some the new way makes it difficult to transfer all the stories and photographs quickly onto the website. This is a short-term situation. Here’s one good alternative for you in the meantime: Near the bottom of the homepage you’ll find our e-edition: It’s a complete replica of the day’s newspaper, from cover to cover.
*From multiple readers with mixed opinions: What happened to the commenters?
The commenters – readers who add their two cents at the end of Monitor articles and opinion pieces on the website – have experienced extreme difficulty over the past several days. They’re rightly frustrated – and we apologize for the technical hassles. (No, this isn’t an election-season plot to foil leftwing or rightwing commenters, as more than a few callers have suggested.)
On the other hand, readers who have never liked the commenting feature because the conversations sometimes gets out of hand have wrongly assumed we pulled the plug on the feature and thanked me erroneously. Alas, sorry to you too. We are working to fix this feature asap.
*From readers in Andover, Chichester, Pembroke, Concord and beyond: Where’s my letter?!
Well, here’s a problem I can blame not on new technology but on President Obama and Mitt Romney – not to mention Charlie Bass and Annie Kuster. The volume of election-related letters to the editor flooding the Monitor newsroom these days is unprecedented. Most writers want to tell the world how they’re planning to vote on Nov. 6. As I write this, there are more than 100 unedited letters awaiting me.
We will publish as many letters as we can between now and the election. Some reminders: The word limit is 250. Your letter will have a better chance of being published – and published just as you intended – if you keep it that short or even shorter.
If you’ve already told Monitor readers how much you love the president or hate your state senator once, your new letter on the same topic will have less chance making it into print than a letter from a new writer on a different topic. We’re hoping to make room for as many different voices as possible. Time and space are running short.
And if you live outside the Concord area – I’m talking to you, Sylvia McKernan of California and that large family of Romney fans in Seoul, South Korea – we’re unlikely to be able to make room for you at all before the vote. Our priority goes to the local community.
Have I missed your question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.