Origins of the digital edition

March 2015
by Ben Shragge

I grew up in a house of newspapers.

Some combination of the Hamilton Spectator, Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Canadian Jewish News and, of course, Hamilton Jewish News was continuously strewn across the kitchen table. A grand sweeping away of the day’s news preceded Shabbat and holiday dinners.  

When HJN editor Wendy Schneider interviewed me for a story on Jewish twenty-somethings in Hamilton, I talked about my passion for writing and career in publishing. She asked if I’d be interested in writing for the paper and, given my newspaper-strewn upbringing, I said yes.

Journalism has pushed me out into the community. I’ve attended a conference on Israeli Arabs in Toronto, toured a Yiddish-language press in the north end and interviewed a diverse cast of characters I otherwise wouldn’t have met, including musicians, artists and activists.

Although I grew up in a house of newspapers and still subscribe to one, I also voraciously consume media through my laptop and iPhone. My philosophy is that of the informational omnivore: there’s place for unfolding a newspaper (e.g., at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee), and a place for reading and sharing a story on a smartphone (e.g., in a doctor’s waiting room where the alternative is out-of-date magazines).

In recognition of the new media reality, Wendy and I recently began collaborating to make the digital edition of the HJN more than just an afterthought to the printed page. 

We want to enhance stories with links, videos, photo galleries and other web exclusives. 

In the online version of the December issue, Wade Hemsworth’s profile of Marvin Goldblatt includes a photo gallery, Wendy’s article on Sable Island features a video she shot and my article on Robin Zee's play embeds a clip of her performing. Whereas the print story about last August’s New Israel Fund of Canada symposium mentions an article in The Walrus, the web version links to the article itself. These are all examples of how we can use technology to draw the reader more deeply into a story.

We want to embrace social media in order to keep the community continuously updated on relevant news and events.

Our Twitter and Facebook feeds allow us to post stories as they happen and link to articles as soon as they are published. Whether it’s a Spectator column by Rabbi Baskin, CBC Hamilton’s coverage of the McMaster “Hug a Terrorist” campaign or announcements of Holocaust Education Week events, the HJN will be first to share and spread awareness of relevant items.

We want to ensure our stories get the widest possible exposure. 

Former Hamiltonians who are no longer in a position to receive the print edition, but are still interested in their hometown happenings, are one uniquely digital demographic. Dundas-born Torontonian Rachel Levy tweeted to us, “Love hearing about what’s going on in my hometown.” Similarly situated Stephen Adler tweeted that he’d follow the HJN on Twitter because “once a Hamiltonian, always a Hamiltonian.” The HJN will always be a local paper, but our readership is no longer limited by the confines of a paper route.

We want to engage the younger generation of digital natives, the People of the Facebook, by meeting them where they are: online.

McMaster students are not going to get the HJN print edition delivered to their dorm rooms and student houses. They are in transit, on the move from one location to the next and likely to see Hamilton as a way station rather than a home. But they might at least scan the HJN online and, perhaps, begin to appreciate and participate in the local community. 

These thoughts and ideas are what motivate us to make the HJN a truly multi-format print and digital publication.

Please bookmark, follow us on Twitter @HamJewishNews, like us on Facebook and join us as the HJN’s digital development unfolds.

And if you’re reading this in our print edition, please continue to clutter the kitchen table to your heart’s content.


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