Our work is still about the content, but content comes in many forms.
When I first started in this business (as a teenager), reporters pecked out their stories on paper and typewriters. Editors marked our pages up with red pens, and then sent those marked-up pages through an air chute to the next step in a complex path to the printing press.
It was then, and still is, a magical moment when, after all that, you picked up the newspaper and saw the end result: your byline on a news story. That's one of the few things that hasn't changed on our long journey toward the multifaceted digital world that surrounds us today, when typewriters are museum relics and news and information can be read anywhere at anytime on a computer, a smart phone, an iPad or another tablet.
Despite what some of the "new" media leaders sometimes suggest, newspapers have often led the way in this transformation of journalism. One of the very first online national newspapers in America, for example, was not the Huffington Post, but the Nando Times, created by forward-looking thinkers at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., in the early 1990s. When I first started at that paper in 1993, I was asked to have my reporters write breaking news stories for the Web on election night. The editor of the paper was infamous then for suggesting that printing presses would one day stop in lieu of online publications. He only had it half-right.
Today, we still print and distribute more than 500,000 Sunday newspapers every week, making the Star Tribune one of the largest Sunday printed papers in the country. But for most of this year, we have been focused on rapidly building out a digital portfolio so that our news, information and advertising is available wherever our readers are, knowing that some readers only want to get their content on a digital device.
"We're trying to meet the consumers where they are," said Jim Bernard, who joined the Star Tribune in November as senior vice president for digital. "We know they are coming from all these other places. We want them to recognize us on Twitter, on Facebook, whether they're reading on an Android or tablet apps. We also want that experience to be as fast and professional as any news organization in the country."
Earlier this year, for example, we launched a new, modern look for our website. In July, we extended that redesign to our mobile site. "For the next six months, Bernard said, "it's all about these devices. ... When I tell people I've joined the Star Tribune, their eyes light up and they ask me where their iPad app is. That's what they want, and it's great; we're going to get to give it to them."
For several months now, digital and news teams have been working on the tablet app, which we expect to launch Aug. 1. A dozen or so of us have had variations of the app installed on iPads as we have been preparing to offer it to our customers. As an editor, I love the way the whole multimedia experience presents itself on a tablet. Photography is simply stunning, a completely different experience than looking at print photography. There are no space limitations, so we can provide expanded content when we choose for important stories. It's also truly portable; you can download an edition and take it with you on an airplane.
Bernard said he's been using the app for months, the same way readers have consumed the newspaper for decades -- at the breakfast table. "I love that the photos are so crisp and the video is so easy to ask for. ... It's all the stuff I love about my paper, except it's easier to use. I've been eating my oatmeal and reading [on the app], and I love it."
Readers who would like an e-mail alert when the app is available can sign up at www.startribune.com/iPad. Meanwhile, with the tablet app ready to hit the market, the digital teams are now working on news reader apps for iPhones and Droid phones, with a variety of niche products to follow. Our goal for all of these products is to give consumers the consistent look, feel and quality of content that readers have come to expect from the Star Tribune in print all these years. And in that respect, it's no different from where the business was 31 years ago, when I was pecking away at a typewriter.
It's all about the content, whether you read us in print, on your phone or on your soon-to-arrive tablet version of the Star Tribune.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.