Important news from the land of content management systems, publishing, and journalism

It shouldn’t be, but I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week: the Bangor Daily News finally switched their entire publishing workflow operation to Google Docs and WordPress. According to his boss, here’s why:

As we lost staff to cutbacks over the years, assembling our content into finished products was taking a larger and larger percentage of our time. Simply processing press releases seemed to suck up significant portions of editors’ days. No one wanted to be in this situation, but our infrastructure for moving content demanded it. We were trapped.


As the newsroom has grown comfortable with Docs, it is becoming more efficient (links and headlines, for instance, travel from Docs to WordPress) and we are shifting staff members from production to content creation. We knew we had a winner in Docs when we had a major election story with two reporters in the field and an editor in the newsroom, all working simultaneously on the same breaking story, adding content, seeing in real time what each was adding, talking to each other through the chat function and responding with updated information. Fast, simple, low cost.

Lauren Rabaino interviewed Will for MediaBistro to get the full details on how it actually works:

  1. Reporters and editors compose all stories in Google Docs. Using labels and native commenting, the stories get sent through the editing process.
  2. When a story is ready to publish, it gets sent from Google Docs to WordPress with one click.
  3. In WordPress, editors can publish the story to the web, then set up a print headline and print subhead.
  4. The story then appears in InDesign, where print designers can lay out the print newspaper.

Matt Thompson, in a piece for Poynter about why content management systems matter to journalists, gets the last word:

We’re beginning to understand that a CMS — every CMS, open-source, enterprise, or otherwise — requires continual investment and development. No matter how small or large your organization is, your content management system has to develop to accommodate a digital news environment that changes dramatically from year to year.


Because it makes no sense to spend a month of training on a system that’s going to change in a year, we have to use content management interfaces that are beautiful enough for users to grasp intuitively.

And because we need to develop fast, we have to borrow tools and ideas from the world of open-source software to make our content management ecosystems better.

Finally we’re getting somewhere. Good investments pay dividends.

Escape to Maine, Memorial Day weekend edition

To get out of the city for Memorial Day weekend, Albert and I found cheap tickets (~$200/roundtrip) on JetBlue and flew up to Maine to meet up with Will for three days of hiking. It was epic.

Friday consisted of: getting leftover guacamole and chips from a lady at the airport restaurant, a four hour flight delay including a twenty-five airplane wait for the runway, 2 am tortellini pizza at Otto’s, and arriving in Bangor, finally, at 4 am.

After an early wake-up call Saturday morning (noon), Will, Albert, Will’s girlfriend Elyse and I drove to the coast to hike Acadia. It was a cloudy day unfortunately, but the hiking was great. Starting at the top of Cadillac Mountain, we dropped down one side to Jordon Pond and back up a sketchy Class 3 or 4 scramble with non-existent protection. Finishing just as darkness fell, we did about 8 miles and a couple thousand feet of vertical. For dinner and drinks, we went to Geddy’s in Bar Harbor.

Sunday became our gorgeous rest and recuperate day. Albert and I rented mountain bikes (his a Cannondale and mine a $2,500 Santa Cruz) and, with Will and Will’s friend Andrew, rode through Bangor City Forest for a couple of hours. This include water crossings and a leech. Afterwards, we drove to 4 Points BBQ for an early, incredibly filling dinner. I had spare ribs and beef brisket, heavy on the Kansas City BBQ sauce.

For Memorial Day, our big goal was the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain and one end of the Appalachian Trail. Waking up at 3 am to snag a parking slot (there ended up being plenty), we started hiking around 7 am, scrambled thousands of feet up Abol Slide, and summited just after 10 am. It was a lot windier than the forecast said. We took Hunt’s Trail, another popular route, for our never ending sketchy scramble down the mountain. I got back at 2 pm, Albert at 2:30 pm and Will and Andrew at 2:45 pm. In total, Katahdin was about 9 miles in length and around four thousand of elevation gain.

Three days of awesome.

BCNI Philly: Advanced WordPress development

Andrew Nacin and Marc Lavallee led a 2 pm session on advanced WordPress development. It was mostly a free-form conversation about the use of WordPress in newsrooms. Continue reading “BCNI Philly: Advanced WordPress development”