When I got started nobody had a website. There was even a question, around 2003, as to whether a news operation truly needed a website if it put out a print product on the reg. Then everybody had to set one up immediately, and figure out how — or if — to put your archive online. It would be at least 10 years before the digital-first policy came into vogue among the print news folks, who still thought most people wanted to read their hard copies in the morning, over coffee and cigarettes.
I didn’t know how to use the first website I ever worked with: how to post articles and photos, how to fix it if it crashed. Our second iteration of the site cost more than $1,000 a month, for which our weekly stories would, like magic, appear each week. I didn’t know how to load that one either, or respond to comments, or check stats. And when it went down, all we could do was phone the webmaster in Milwaukee, who might or might not answer.
We had an office server then, too: a groaning, blinking PC tucked into a closet holding all the pertinent weekly documents to which we shared access. It was a huge step up from the zip drive that connected our two production computers at my first editing job.
I thought I’d have to buy an office server when we started Triad City Beat in 2014, which would have run between $3K-$10K. Instead I found a remote-access hard drive with 10 terabytes of memory for $180. And instead of forking over $1,000 a month to a web company to build, host and maintain our site, we built it ourselves. Or, more accurately, a former co-worker of mine assured me that WordPress had evolved to the point it could handle our needs.
“The blogging thing?” I asked then.
That site went through several iterations before we launched the custom beauty that you may be using right now. Launched in January this year, the site still relies on WordPress functionality and simplicity. I know how to do a lot of things on it, though our webmaster has specifically requested that I do not tinker with the code anymore.
Today, more than two years after we started doing newspaper production remotely, we have stepped up to the cloud, retiring the little hard drive in our office and moving all operations fully online. The move re-routes our emails through a much faster server, liberating it from the server that hosts our site. It gives us shared folders accessible to all of us from wherever we may be, streamlining the production process. It does a hundred other little things that I’m still figuring out.
And I’d say we’re only three to five years behind the times on this one, which, for a print news media company, is not too shabby.
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