'Chronicle' is boosting coverage, online efforts

Things are looking up for our community and for The Augusta Chronicle in 2010, our 225th year as a newspaper.

The outlook for local employment remains solid. Our housing market is among the best performing nationally. Indeed, we need to be concerned about state and local tax revenues sliding and affecting our schools, but there is confidence our resilient local economy will counter some of this.

The Chronicle newsroom is positioning itself to move forward with a strong foot.

We expect to provide a steadier and fuller diet of local news in print and online.

We will put more energy into being your watchdog and champion on local issues.

We will be a more powerful multimedia storytelling force in print and online.

To do this, we are reorganizing our news operation, hiring a few more journalists than last year and moving augustachronicle.com onto a new software platform and into more digital devices. We plan on being more interactive through Twitter and Facebook.

We'll be beefing up coverage of the economy, jobs and education. You'll see more "Things To Do" coverage starting with a revamp of our Applause section. We'll offer more consumer information and help you save money through our Pinch columnist, LaTina Emerson.

We'll have individuals assigned to review public records and watch how tax dollars are spent. This will be led by a three-person team headed by Public Service Editor Mike Wynn. Investigative reporters Johnny Edwards and Sandy Hodson will be focused on answering burning questions in emerging headlines. They'll delve deeper into issues of public interest. Equity in government salaries might be something they'd review.

Send your ideas and news tips for investigations to johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com and sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com. They'll follow up.

Expect some new bylines on their beats. It'll take a few weeks for new people to be hired and for new assignments to be made.

These staff additions simply will boost local coverage.

In the coming month, augustachronicle.com will change.

A new design will launch along with a change to the software engine behind the site. (For you local techies, it's Drupal-based.)

This change will allow the entire newsroom to be more involved in production and management of the site content, allowing more parts to come alive during the day.

We will have people working together on social media, extending our ability to interact and share the news on mobile devices and more.

Upcoming, Web-enabled phones will automatically receive news designed for phones when accessing augustachronicle.com.

Bill Kirby has been named online news director to help drive these changes. This new title means he'll be guiding what used to be known as the Metro Desk in new ways for an urgent and lively online report for all sections of the site. Our local news director is James Folker. He'll team with Mr. Kirby to plan how online and print efforts fold into your doorstep edition. Some of you might remember Mr. Folker in similar roles in the past. He and Mr. Kirby will co-lead the newsgathering team.

Don't worry. Mr. Kirby will still be writing his column. Don't forget to send postcards for his annual feature this summer.

Speaking of "Mr."... I've been thinking about jettisoning the courtesy titles still present in Chronicle news copy. We don't use them in the opinion pages or Sports. It would save us editing time and make some things more uniform. Should we keep them to encourage decorum and as a nod to Southern civility? If we did drop them, we certainly would keep them in obituaries.

Send me your thoughts on this and any coverage suggestions via e-mail at alan.english@augustachronicle.com or by mail to Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903.

Real and symbolic changes are a necessary part of renewal. Modernizing does include streamlining where you can -- and we are doing that, too, in an effort to find more resources for the journalism you expect from us.

A newspaper that has been around for 225 years has weathered many tough days and reinvented itself several times.

Our team is inspired to invigorate our daily report to serve the community as the single-best source of local news and information for another 225 years.

Reach Alan English at (706) 823-3487 or alan.english@augustachronicle.com.

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