‘Inquirer’ Will Introduce ‘Radio-Style’ Programming Online

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By: Graham Webster

Soon, every reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer will have a Web page where readers and journalists can interact about the day’s stories, beginning with 10 such pages that launch June 16.

The new initiative, announced in a memo to editors and in an interview with E&P this week, will also include “radio-style” programming online, with certain reporters, columnists, and critics facing readers online in a live Q&A, Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett said. This “appointment programming,” she said, may shift to instant message-style interaction or even one- or two-way audio programs as technology develops.

The radio-style schedule, when it is introduced, will begin at 7 a.m., and continue through the day with scheduled appearances by various staff, the memo said. The first block of the day will be a “morning host,” who will gather news from overnight, plus offer traffic reports, weather, and other items.

In addition to the individual Web pages and “appointment programming,” photographers will soon be able to post photos that don’t make the paper on individual Web pages, and the paper hopes to “purchase wireless accounts for photo staff to allow immediate posting of images from the field,” according to the memo.

These changes require Inquirer staff to develop new skills in some cases, but Bennett said they are already making progress, and not just among younger, tech-savvy staff.

“I’ve been surprised that the willingness and ability to adapt to this is going across all age-groups,” she told E&P. “And some of my most interested people are at the upper end of the age-groups.”

Philly.com already features a blog written by Daniel Rubin, who among other things tracks local blog activity in Philadelphia.

“My goal is to create the interaction among blogs in one central location,” Bennett said. “And so what he’s doing is cruising both local blogs and national blogs.” Local bloggers, she said, have been delighted to get the extra exposure that comes from a link on Philly.com.

Rubin has also started compiling some of the material into a print column, based on his blogging work.

The idea behind this initiative came about two months ago when Bennett heard that a columnist had received over 80 e-mails about a column. “Suddenly a lightbulb went off that said: that is really interaction that went on behind the scenes,” Bennett said. This led her to ask, “What could we do to turn that reader interaction into public interaction?”

So far her staff has responded positively. “I’m just completely psyched about how everyone is taking to this,” she said. “I’m seeing that all this is really sparking people’s creativity.”

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