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Op-ed column: Contests, blogs make Gazette Web site an interactive experience

Op-ed column: Contests, blogs make Gazette Web site an interactive experience

It was a minor upset. At least to me and the small circle of specialized handicappers I consulted. B

It was a minor upset. At least to me and the small circle of specialized handicappers I consulted. But contrary to our expectations, The Gazette’s My Fabulous Father contest drew more entries than last year’s My Marvelous Mother. Granted, the margin was just one entry, 57-56, but I thought the Moms would win easily.

Luckily, no money was on the line for my forecasting. And while The Gazette does offer prizes to winners in our reader participation events, they aren’t really the point. The paper likes providing the forum for our readers to share their thoughts and experiences in an extended community. And judging by the response we receive, readers welcome the chance to participate.

We’ve been working on several projects in recent weeks that show how a newspaper can be interactive in print as well as on line.

Of course, these days many features live both in print and on our Web site.

Student Gazette

For instance, we are now preparing the 10th edition of The Student Gazette, a newspaper for which the region’s elementary and high school students write stories, take pictures, design ads and create editorial cartoons. This is a favorite of Gazette staff, who judge the work and get to share in the excitement of the contributors. And the idea has taken hold in the schools: We received an estimated 900 entries this year.

The entries open a window into the worlds of young people and sometimes a new perspective on the world of all of us. This year’s edition, for instance, includes a piece by fourth-grader Joey Fraser, talking with his uncle, a New York state trooper shot by the notorious Bucky Phillips.

With the expansion of our Web site, dailygazette.com., we can add a new dimension to The Student Gazette. Distribution of the edition on May 16 will be just the start, this year. We plan to use the publication as foundation for an ongoing student section of the Web site, starting with material published in print but keeping the section alive through the year with fresh material of interest to the region’s young people.

My Fabulous Father is the most recent in a series of events over the years in which readers submit stories for judging. I have been impressed from the start at how many people take the trouble to craft stories that share touching, funny and sometimes deeply personal memories. They make irresistible reading, as evidenced by the 759 votes readers cast in last year’s Mother’s Day contest.

Last year’s winner told the tale of a mother who brought her child through Down syndrome, heart defects and leukemia, all before she was 7, only to develop MS herself.

This year’s version of the contest will go before the judgment of our readers on May 13, when we publish the top 10 entries on our Web site and in the newspaper and invite readers to choose their favorites. The winners will be published on Father’s Day (which I’m sure we all remember is June 15).

The Student Gazette and My Fabulous Father contests are examples of how we have adapted long-standing features to the digital age. At the same time, we continue to expand our offering of interactive features on dailygazette.com.

New blogs

In recent weeks we have introduced two new weblogs, Held out for Comment and Greenpoint.

Held out for Comment is by Elizabeth Held, a Niskayuna High School senior, writing engagingly on topics from poor body image to book clubs. We hope she’s established a beachhead on dailygazette.com for other young writers to follow.

Greenpoint takes a different approach from our other blogs, which feature individual commentary. It’s overseen by Gazette Sunday and Projects Editor Margaret Hartley, but she intends it to be a community effort in which readers share tips and philosophies about green living. Wild food and “bus biking” have been recent topics.

The Gazette has probably always considered itself a community newspaper, so it’s been particularly interesting to explore these new ways of defining and nurturing community. Their success relies on readers embracing the concept, so please let us know what you think and propose other ways to extend our community.

Gazette Managing Editor Tom Woodman’s Editor’s Notes column appears monthly in the Sunday Opinion section.

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