The online media trend appears to be spreading as the town of Bethel embraces the switch to digital news by introducing the recently launched news site, The Bethel Patch. Local editor, Lauren Williams visited the staff of the Wildcat Word Monday, October 18th to explain the purpose of Bethel’s up and coming news source.
“It’s meant to be a true part of the community. Users can leave comments, send me ideas, and put up their own obituaries and announcements,” says Lauren Williams, who has been a part of the staff since August, and has been working on the site since its launch on October 8, 2010. She explains that Patch’s goal is to be a part of communities as a news source for towns that have recently lost their newspaper, or do not have a news source.
Many members of the Bethel community have also found Patch to be a great source of information. Mark Goodwin, Athletic director of the Bethel High School and girl’s cross country coach states, “This is a great idea for obvious reasons. The news is quick and many have access to the current news of the town.”
The Bethel Patch covers a majority of topics in and around Bethel, from local politics to high school sports. Williams adds, “I know that parents and even Bethel High fans really like to see pictures of the kids and what’s going on.” Kathleen McGowan, the field hockey and swim coach of BHS adds, “I like the team’s publicity. The website is a great resource for members of the school community and town to read about (and see pictures) of games etc from all sports.”
Many news sites have switched from print sources to the internet and so have the ways of publicizing and spreading information. Williams explains that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been a great help in “breaking the news as soon as it happens.” Bethel Patch staff connects with agencies like the Bethel Fire Department over Twitter in order to get the most recent news publicized as fast as possible. “Instead of a tweet we have a full fledged story about it.” She further clarifies, “Now that I’m posting stories, I hear from people all the time how they found Bethel Patch by something their friends ‘liked’ or commented on Facebook.”
In terms of the variety of news, online sites also have their perks. Journalists don’t have to constantly worry about word count and the amount of space their article takes up on newsprint. Williams says, “Not only are we unlimited to how much copy we write, but we also get to tell stories using as many photos we want and get to include video.” While this type of news appears to be different, Lauren adds, “The key, in my mind, is to keep traditional journalism ethics and methods, but adjust them to meet the needs of internet users.”
The Bethel Patch is a great example of how the journalism world is developing. While the switch to online news has been discouraged by some, many view it as a positive change. Williams explains, “Overall I hope young journalists don’t get discouraged because everyone seems to be saying our industry is dying, if anything it’s evolving into something great.”