has come a long way

February 3, 2009

By Debbie Berto

The Issaquah Press was one of the early newspapers to get a Web site, back in 1992. We were proud of it then, but it didn’t grow and morph into something better as time went by. 

Last fall, we started over. New format, new features, the whole paper page-by-page, reader comments, better archives, photo galleries and more.

Best of all, we are posting fresh news stories every day. We learned just how important that was during the recent storms.During the January flood, our Web traffic was 250 percent of normal usage, climbing to more than 6,000 unique visitors in just a couple of days.

It’s obvious that there is a hunger for details on breaking news, especially when it’s local. Our news team didn’t disappoint. Editor Kathleen Merrill called for all hands on deck to get the story, and even borrowed reporters from the news desks of Sammamish Review and Newcastle News to help out. 

We had reporters at just about every waterlogged spot in town — on Gilman Boulevard, East Dogwood Street, May Valley Road, state Route 900, the fish hatchery, Sycamore and so on. They were in close communications with the city, the emergency operations center, the Red Cross, CERT, and an awful lot of citizen journalists who called and e-mailed us.

The online news coverage was immediate. It didn’t just say, “Hey, it’s raining hard and the creek is flooding.” It also included links to the National Weather Service, the city’s Web site, Department of Transportation photos and a map of road closures. There was news of a shelter opening, school closures, details of flood phases and a lot of personal stories about the effects of the floods. And it was all posted for our online readers by noon, only four hours after Issaquah Creek crested.

As our readers started sending photos of the water damage, we added them to our staff photos, creating a photo gallery. We did the same when viewers sent us their fun-in-the-snow photos, making for a great slideshow of snow sculptures, snow caves, sledders, snow plows and romping dogs.

If you’ve visited, you may have also enjoyed our videos. The first one we ever posted was from the Issaquah versus Skyline state championship football game — a short of the crowd cheering, the band playing and the gridiron action. The most recent video is from Pine Lake Middle School where a lot of young talent was doing a little boot scootin’ at the annual hoedown.

There are a couple of other new features that make this site worthy of consideration for the home page on your computer.

One is the list of community links, taking you directly to the chamber, city, school district, library, museums, Salmon Days and numerous local clubs. This feature is my personal favorite. You can also link to other papers in our company, including The Seattle Times. 

And we love the comments you can leave on stories! Some comments tip us off to other stories, some just say thanks, others leave their opinions or relay their own connected stories. 

The archives are also great if you are looking for an article that ran a while ago. And our special sections and magazines are all there, too. Oh, don’t forget to refer to the collection of restaurant reviews — 20 of them since we redesigned the site. 

We’ve improved the ease of submitting news to us, too. Now, there are forms for sending in your birth, engagement and wedding announcements, or an obituary. 

When we first told reporters that they were now going to have daily deadlines for online news, the long-timers were concerned about where they’d get the time. The younger members of the news team were excited to learn, and now I’d say they all share that excitement. And it shows!

Check out if you haven’t already. Take a look around the site so you know what’s there. And leave me an online comment on the end of this story to let us know what you think.

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