This is not your typical newspaper office. The Register Citizen’s new headquarters at 59 Field Street in Torrington incorporates a Newsroom Cafe, Community Media Lab, Local News Library and Community Journalism School. Just in case, here are 100 cool things about the project that we may have forgotten to tell you about.
1. Community Welcome. We’re inviting the community into our physical space, and to be part of the process of local journalism at any or every step of the process.
2. We mean everyone. The initial hours of our Newsroom Cafe will be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. We want to be accessible to people with varying schedules, and hope to become a before- and after-work destination for those who can’t make it during traditional weekday business hours.
3. We really mean everyone. In getting our new offices ready in the headquarters of the Torrington Company, accessibility and openness were the priority. As part of our renovations, a handicapped access ramp was installed at the main entrance to the historic building at 59 Field Street.
4. No walls. There are literally no walls between where editors and reporters work in the newsroom and where the public and citizen journalists and bloggers reside in the Newsroom Cafe and Community Media Lab.
5. Green Mountain Coffee. Colombian Fair Trade, Hazlenut, French Vanilla, Kona Blend, Newman’s brand, seasonal specialties such as Gingerbread and Spicy Eggnog coffee, and much more.
6. For 75 cents a cup. That’s right. You won’t have to bring a Brinks truck.
7. Baked goods. Muffins, coffee cake and pastries from Through the Grapevine Bakery of Morris.
8. Free public wifi. The Torrington Public Library, McDonald’s and Panera Bread, way up on the other side of town, are the only other locations to offer free wifi to customers in Torrington.
9. Comfy seating. We’ve got leather couches and armchairs, coffee tables, worktables if you need a little bit more space, and cafe table-style seating as well.
10. Outdoor courtyard. When the weather gets warmer, we open our outdoor courtyard with picnic table seating and the same access to coffee, snacks and free wifi.
11. Flood of 1955 Exhibit. The Newsroom Cafe includes an exhibit of photos from the Flood of 1955, including large aerial scenes of the devastation in downtown Torrington and a framed special edition of the Winsted Evening Citizen from the following day. The physical exhibit is tied to an online photo gallery of then-and-now photos of scenes from around Torrington that show the aftermath of the flood in particular locations, and what those spots look like now. Each is pinged to a Google Map location for easy reference.
12. Artist of the Month. Starting in January, our “Artist of the Month” program will feature the work of a different Northwest Connecticut artist each month, on the walls of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, with a feature in the print edition of the newspaper and with a video “studio tour” and slideshow of their work on RegisterCitizen.Com.
13. Cub Reporter. He was decorated by local artist Joan Pavlinsky, auctioned off for charity as part of the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and LARC-sponsored “Bearlieve It or Not” campaign last summer, and now our bespectacled 3-foot-tall ceramic bear, “Cub Reporter,” lives in The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe.
14. 120 years of local history. The full archives of The Register Citizen and its predecessors, the Torrington Register and the Winsted Evening Citizen, are available on microfilm, with free access to the public, at our new office.
15. Find, print and email articles from 100 years ago. The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe has a brand-new, modern microfilm machine that allows you not only to print copies of articles from 1925 on a laser printer, but also scan them to a PDF and email them to yourself.
16. A place for bloggers. To bloggers and citizen journalists in Northwest Connecticut, we say, “Mi casa su casa.” Incorporated into The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe and adjacent to desks occupied by staff reporters and editors are work stations where bloggers and citizen journalists can write or upload a story, work on their site, with advice from our staff, or edit a video.
17. Open source tools. Our Community Media Lab workstations are outfitted with “open source,” web-based publishing tools so that bloggers and citizen journalists can learn about free web design, publishing, photo and video editing programs that allow virtually anyone to publish news about their neighborhood or interest at no cost other than their own time.
18. Lessons from Ben Franklin. The Register Citizen itself participated in a Journal Register Company experiment over the summer in which it published the entire July 4th print and online editions using only free, web-based, open source tools. “The Ben Franklin Project” taught us how open source tools and crowdsourcing could be applied to local news reporting by our staff and our audience.
19. Full-time community outreach. Rare for a newspaper our size, we have named a full-time editor to support existing bloggers and citizen journalists and recruit new ones. You can reach Kaitlyn Yeager at 860-489-3121, ext. 345, email email@example.com or find her on Twitter @kmyeager.
19. The Idea Lab. Kaitlyn is a member of Journal Register Company’s “Idea Lab,” in which 15 people across the company were chosen to be equipped with an iPad, iPhone, Netbook and extra monthly stipend, and freed up from regular responsibilities so that 25 percent of their work week is devoted to nothing but research and development.
20. Open Story Meetings. Our daily news meetings are open to the community, and the newsroom’s conference table is purposely positioned on the edge of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe to encourage community members to sit in and participate.
21. Community Journalism School. We have a classroom built right into our newsroom, and year-round will be offering classes and workshops in journalism, writing, technology and where they intersect. They’ll be offered in-person, and streamed and recorded for the web. And either for free, or a nominal charge if books and/or materials are involved.
22. Community Meeting Space. Our classroom and conference room are available to community groups as public meeting space, at no charge.
23. Video conferencing. Our classroom has a 55-inch flat-screen monitor connected to cable television and a computer. It, and web cams in the classroom, can be used for Skype video conferencing, including having teachers from afar lead classes in Torrington, or classes and meetings in Torrington being broadcast to the web.
24. Wii bowling league. Moving our offices from the print manufacturing facility we occupied for 105 years to our new space started with a desire to have a nicer workplace for employees. Part of that is having fun. Our employee lounge is outfitted with a 55-inch flatscreen TV and Wii video game system, and employees have organized a Monday night employee Wii bowling league. We’re practicing to eventually issue a challenge to the members of the Torrington Senior Center. There is actually a state championship for Wii bowling in Connecticut, and they are defending champs.
25. Children welcome. The open floor plan of our office is a roomy and fun place for employees’ children, a frequent sight, and there’s a toy box with a stash of activities on hand. Want to contribute to our Community Media Lab, grab a cup of coffee or use our archives, but are worried about bringing an energetic toddler into a stuffy, quiet newsroom? Bring them!