Journal Register Co. Expanding ?Ben Franklin? All-Free-Web Tools Publishing Project to All its Dailies

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Just days after a Journal Register Co. daily and weekly successfully published using only free tools from the Internet, CEO John Paton Sunday declared that all 18 of its dailies will do the same on July 4.

 John Paton said all the dailies will produce online and print editions using only Web-based tools to report, take advertising orders and perform all other tasks bypassing the chain’s mostly dated proprietary systems.

“On July 4th we will declare our independence,” Paton wrote in a memo to JRC employees Sunday. “We will declare our independence from the kind of thinking that has kept our company and industry from transforming to a multi-platform news company. And we will declare our independence from an industry that ties itself up with expensive proprietary I.T. systems and processes that are outdated almost the day they are installed.”

Paton said the company is establishing the “ideaLab” that will begin by equipping 15 staff members with state-of-the-art equipment including an iPhone, iPad and a Netbook.

“We will carve out 10 hours a week from their jobs to allow them time to experiment with these tools and report back on how we can change our business for the better,” he wrote. And we will add an extra $500 per month to their pay.

Journal Register employees can become members of the ideaLab by e-mailing a short message on what they would do with the tools and the time. All JRC employees in any division or department are eligible, he said.

Last week, two JRC papers — the daily News-Herald in Lake County, Ohio and the weekly Perkasie (Pa.) News-Herald — completed the Ben Franklin Project by producing papers and online reports using social media to solicit story ideas and reader contributions, and other Web tools to design ads.

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