This is very much a transitional issue of the Albion Monitor. We're moving to a new format; by the time of our first anniversary in August, this newspaper will be quite different, and this issue gives you some hint of what lies ahead. In coming weeks we ask for your patience as we retool the factory, here.
So what's new? At first you'll probably notice some cosmetic differences. We're cleaning up our layout, improving graphics and adding more color to the display. We're also using more illustrations and photos, both on the front page and inside. (But don't worry; this never will be one of those tedious web sites that take minutes to load.)
You'll likely also notice that there's no date at the top of the page. That's part of the biggest change coming; the Albion Monitor is switching to a"dynamic" publication schedule. What does that mean? New stories will be added as they become available; no longer will a timely news article have to wait two weeks (or more) before the next issue appears.
We're also going to run more series, with installments or updates every few days. We did this with coverage of Bruce Anderson's jailing, and it was very popular; in this issue, you'll find the first offerings of our Coastwalk coverage, which will have new additions as the hike continues.
For you the reader, this means that you'll have to check the Albion Monitor at least once a week to stay current. And to make the new additions easy to find, we'll have a graphic next to the story for the first five days or so.
Ah, but what happens to the old stories that are pushed out by the new? That's the biggest change to our format; our archives are about to become a vital part of this newspaper.
There's a teaser on our current front page, promising that search options are coming soon. That's true; in a few weeks, you'll be able to do a full search of our back issues by keyword. A search option has become increasingly critical; there are over 600 files in our back issues, either complete stories or hyperlink story sections. We're finding many readers stumbling blindly through our archives, hunting for a half-remembered story. (Those forlorn souls aren't alone-- I do that myself, and regularly.)
But a search option is just the beginning. You'll also soon notice a "related stories" link at the bottom of the articles, with suggested reading on other pieces on the topic. And even better, we'll try to include links to material from outside as well, to related articles in other newspapers, magazines, or journals.
There will still be the concept of issues, however. Once the new offerings have completely pushed out the old, a "snapshot" of that new edition will be archived in our morgue, same as always. Thus you can still catchup on old news after vacations, or browse the newspaper by approximate date.
You'll also find more stories about Sonoma County and the North Bay, starting with this issue. We're expanding our local coverage while keeping the same number of wire stories and other contributions from outside our area. This means that you'll probably find these dynamic issues somewhat "fatter" than previous offerings.
That additional coverage is going to be expensive for us. Those stories are costly in labor, time -- and, of course, payments to the reporters, who have these inexplicable desires to eat and have shelter. In the coming months, we expect our editorial budget to double because of this additional commitment. All great news, except for one little problem -- we can't afford it.
Or at least, not now.
To offer the new format and new coverage, we need your support. We're taking a gamble that there's an audience for what we have to offer, particularly with these new features. We're hoping that easy access to those 600+ back files, the related links in stories, the expanded coverage and the rest will appeal to a larger audience. But this is very much a gamble for us; we can't pay for the expanded features described here without your support.
Together, we stand at a crossroads; we can go onward -- but we can also go back. If we're wrong, we'll have to drastically scale back on production -- if not temporarily suspend publication. Without your support, this journal could even suffer the fate of late, lamented Web Review, mourned in my last editorial. If that happens, we have a lot to lose.
But if this newspaper falters, you've got something to lose, too. As our future will be determined by you, so it can be said that a measure of your future is up to us. We've offered a fair number of scoops during these months, and far greater coverage of important issues like Bruce Anderson's jailing. We've offered comprehensive articles on important (but complex) topics like the "salvage" logging rules and leaking underground storage tanks. That's information you won't find anywhere else. Do you want to have that kind of independent news coverage available?
There are few enough independent sources of news anywhere -- if you don't believe that, read Mark Lowenthal's column about the decline of the "alternative" press. On Monday, June 24, Microsoft kicked in with its own electronic journalism offering. Think you're going to find hard-hitting investigative reporting there?
More than ever before, what happens to this newspaper is up to you; the Albion Monitor is supported entirely by subscriptions. If you live in Sonoma County, please consider switching to Monitor Publishing as your Internet service provider, with its highest-quality Internet services. If you live farther away, subscriptions to the newspaper are $29 per year.
Let us know if you like this new, emerging format; let us know if you like our new coverage. Send us a letter to the editor with your opinion on these and other issues -- and if you like what you find here, vote with your subscription.
Jeff Elliott, Editor
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