Just after noon on Monday, Launch Day, it happened: As we scrolled through our brand-new website, a chirpy ring burst from the mobile phone of Elizabeth Kayser, our assignment editor.
Standing nearby, a couple staff members and I froze in place.
"Should I answer it?" Kayser asked.
Pause. She did, striking up a conversation with a customer about our newspaper, which had just debuted online, moments before.
The rest of us in the room looked at each other with a reaction that went two directions: Excitement, over our first real human-to-newsroom contact. And instant grasp of a sober reality: Whoa; this thing we've wrought suddenly has a heartbeat of its own — requiring constant care and feeding, we hope, for the foreseeable future.
So it began. And off we go.
CDN's downtown Bellingham newsroom is greatly buoyed by tremendous community support after Monday's launch. It deepens our resolve to be the go-to place for news, opinion, sports and A&E coverage in the upper left corner of Washington state.
But we know that our online birth, and the pending addition of a weekly print edition, also has prompted some questions from new readers:
What exactly is a "digital daily" newspaper?
You're looking at the biggest chunk of it. It's a website, social media posts, an email newsletter — and ultimately other digital delivery tools — that puts news ranging from breaking to enterprising in front of your eyeballs.
It doesn't mean our staff of fewer than 10 full-time journos will be delivering an entirely new home page full of content every morning (for the record, that would be more than two dozen stories). But our team works daily to bring you the most important news ASAP.
The daily website, viewable by phone, tablet or computer, will be "live," as in frequently supplemented, with new material added throughout the day, pushing older material off the "front page" and into the corners of our site, where it will remain available.
Where's the print paper, and how will I get it?
Our full-color print newspaper will be printed late Wednesdays and made available on Thursday mornings, beginning March 3. The paper will contain some stories either already on, or about to be posted on, our website. It's not a weekend guide. It's a newspaper — a compendium of our best work, including breaking news, presented in ways not possible on a screen. The print paper is important not only to our identity and our mission, but our business model, because it will contain advertising.
The paper will be available at a variety of locales, to be announced soon. (These may or may not be the same spots as our company's preceding paper, Cascadia Weekly, was found.) We also plan to make it available by mail to customers as part of our base subscription.
Does the current website include all the types of content we'll get in print?
No. Some of our material will be print-specific. And some of it, such as national columns by writers and columnists at The Washington Post and other sources, by contract can only be published in print.
What does that mean for content scheduling?
It means you'll see, beginning today, many recurring features either debuting or refreshing online every Thursday hereafter, to match their ultimate publication in print. These include:
- Most editorial page content, such as this column, its alter ego The Hammer, Letters to the Editor, editorial cartoons and guest commentaries.
- Fresh versions of weekly features, such as Margaret Bikman's Best Bets guide, Jesse Stanton's The Beat Goes On music column, Brandon Fralic's Drink Cascadia brews and spirits column, Amy Kepferle's A&E stories, and other local contributors' columns about books, restaurants, food, theater, film, visual arts and other subjects.
- Time-honored local print staples such as Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology column, numerous games and puzzles (yes, coming soon a crossword and a Sudoku). We believe these are nice delivered digitally, but even better on paper to be shoved across a dining table or bar or slipped into a messenger bag.
- News features such as a Civic Agenda guide to public meetings and open-comment periods and other useful listings to make it easier to engage in public life. Also a recurring feature called "What's the Deal With (blank)", a quick take on a curious sight, problem or phenomenon — one of many additions for which we'll be looking for reader tips.
- In Sports & Rec, in addition to our strong daily preps and college sports coverage, you'll find Thursday-launched columns about the outdoors, recreation and regional travel, written by a talented rotating crew of local contributors.
Even though we won't have a Thursday print paper until March, we're launching much of this online today to get you — and us — in the Thursday habit.
Will you cover live prep and college sports?
Absolutely. Look for our daily live online coverage by sports guru Hailey Palmer and photography by our visual journalists, with expanded print features on Thursdays. We'll also follow major Seattle pro sports franchises via our wire services.
Will you have reader comments on your stories?
No. The editor believes publishing of unmoderated blathering by unidentified lurkers in comment sections to be one of the greatest abrogations of journalistic duty by news organizations in many decades. Originally well-intended as a market place of ideas in a convenient digital public square, most unfortunately have descended into swamps of uncivil discourse, bigotry, misogyny and other not-niceties.
More and more publications seem to be waking up to this; the smarter and non-click-addicted are scaling back or ditching comments altogether.
In short: If we can't moderate comments to weed out the vile and bile, we won't publish them. (This is consistent with our Commitment to Community pledge to do our part to combat misinformation and propaganda.) And we'd rather invest our valuable budget dollars in journalism than online babysitting.
But we absolutely encourage feedback and discourse about our coverage. You can contact our staff directly, write a letter to the editor or comment on our social media posts, as long as the conversation remains civil.
What do you consider to be your coverage area?
We cover Whatcom and Skagit counties and the San Juan Islands. Our initial coverage has a strong Whatcom focus because we believe that's where it's most urgently needed. But we'll be extending our reach to cover the broader region.
When will you put up a paywall, and how do I subscribe to the paper?
We're holding off on a paywall for now, giving you a chance to check us out unencumbered by logins or annoying pop-up ads. We'll keep you posted about when we'll start charging to access some of our material. You can join the signup list to become a charter subscriber now.
Our subscriptions will be simple, clear, and personal, administered from Bellingham, not overseas. Watch for announcements online and in the print newspaper from our business office, which operates independently of the newsroom.
Because we're very much a work in progress, that's the bulk of what we can announce today about our scheduling and distribution plans. For answers to other questions, see our FAQ page.
In the meantime, keep the suggestions and story ideas coming to email@example.com.
See you again here next week, and thanks again, Cascadia, and lands beyond, for the warm welcome. We're happy to be here, and to bring so many of you along with us.
Executive Editor Ron Judd's column appears on Wednesdays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @roncjudd.