The Hyattsville Life & Times has gone online in a big way.
After 10 years in print, the nonprofit newspaper soft-launched the new HyattsvilleLife.com website late last month to complement its monthly newspaper.
The web team will be led by Rebecca Bennett, who recently stepped down as WJLA’s feed coordinator to care for her newborn. Another contributor is local freelancer Katy June-Friesen, who is working on a doctorate at the University of Maryland’s School of Journalism.
The Hyattsville Wire caught up with Bennett via email recently for a Q&A.
How often do you plan to update the website?
We set a preliminary goal of two new stories per week in addition to what is in the print edition. Eventually, I hope that residents and readers will be able to wake up every morning and have something new to read from us. We’ve posted almost 25 stories in the past two weeks that we just had to share with the community, so I think we’re on our way.
How will the website’s mission differ from the monthly newspaper?
We’ll be able to bring news and information to the community in a more timely fashion. The print edition has a space limit, but the Internet still seems to be limitless in how much information it can hold. There are more opportunities to engage readers and get feedback from them.
A priority for the Hyattsville Life & Times is to have a searchable archive of as many back issues as possible. And, a website comes with a lot of new features that are not feasible in the print format. We also wanted the newspaper’s website to be a collection point for information reported elsewhere of interest to the residents of Hyattsville.
What is the site built on? WordPress?
Yes, our website is built using WordPress. I have been managing websites using various (content management) platforms for small non-profits for almost 10 years. I first looked into WordPress maybe 5-6 years ago. I was skeptical when Chris Currie suggested it as being a good option, because I wrote it off long ago. That night, I left the meeting and started looking into it. I was instantly sold on WordPress as an easy-to-use platform. Administrators can even edit the php files right from the web interface. I was really blown away. Almost everything is self-contained in WordPress.
How many writers will you have for the website?
Total, we have 3-4 contributors for the website. We have asked current Hyattsville Life & Times staff interested in contributing to the web to do so. If anyone not currently contributing to the newspaper is interested in contributing to the website in some form or fashion, email email@example.com
Why now? The HL&T hasn’t had a website for a long time (other than the PDF versions). What sparked this decision now?
It was less a decision as it was an opportunity on multiple fronts. There was just this perfect storm of the Hyattsville Life & Times needing a website and me needing an online news project to manage. I had not previously been involved with contributing to the paper.
I approached the Hyattsville Life & Times in March of 2014 with this crazy idea that I could manage a website for them. I have been working in television news for 10 years, I have a diverse background that includes managing CMS applications for various projects. I believe a website is an indispensable part of a news organization’s brand, and I have watched news websites evolve, news websites done well, and watched news websites done poorly over my career.
Hyattsville Life & Times knew that the eventually needed a website. They had already laid out the purpose, mission, and goals of the project.
Hyattsville Life & Times created this amazing print product, to which an astounding amount of time and effort is dedicated. And, a news website is its own completely different monster that requires an additional set of volunteer staff. More importantly, it requires one person to be the administrator and editor of the website full-time.
We are all fortunate that a set of circumstance brought us all together. We are all going to benefit from the existence of hyattsvillelife.com, and so will the community.