Cracking The Crossville News Secret

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I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the Crossville News first staff for almost two years now and one of the biggest reasons has to be because we have such an earthly understanding of our website. It can’t be found on any search engine, but many people do find it by searching for “local news in Crossville Tennessee” or “news in Crossville.” Our website has a very user-friendly layout that has won our fair share of awards and is easy on the eyes. We have digital versions in various convenient formats, including Flash and HTML5 web pages with digital advertising, so you know your money is going toward what you read.

What is it?

Our website is a collaboration of the very best in journalism and technology; giving it a new face on the internet. Our site has been up and running for 12 years, but in 2011 we took it online. It originally ran on my home server which was connected to the internet via Ethernet cable, then later with DSL. In 2011 I made the jump to hosting on my own dedicated server at home, which is also known as a “colo” server or “colocation.”

The colocation service I use is also shared by our print newspaper, The Crossville Chronicle. Colocation servers are used for their reliability and stability. The servers are connected to a private network, which connects us to all the other services we use for our websites. I’m glad I made the switch and learned how to administer the server on my own. It’s likely a little outside of our target audience, but it’s also a way for me to teach myself more about what I do and learn new things, too. We may not be perfect on every level, but being online isn’t either.

Our website is meant to be an all-inclusive local news provider that also happens to print a weekly newspaper. We host live video feeds from The Crossville Fire Department and The Crossville Police Department, as well as webcams from around the city.

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How did they start?

Our website was originally created in 2004 as a website for our newspaper, The Crossville Chronicle, and has been running ever since. We also run a blog of local news and events that gets updated nightly on the site.

We still do all this live video stuff for the paper, but with our new website we were able to syndicate those feeds onto the web so people can see those feeds wherever they are. It’s a good way to get out content not only in our print newspaper, but online (as well as now on television).

The week before this article was published, we ran a story about an infant who fell into an open manhole while crossing Franklin Road. Read the detailed story here -> http://www.crossville-news.com/content/stories/local_news/2012-06-19/crossville-police-investigate.html

The site was built on Drupal, a free, open source content management system used by many news organizations to produce websites. It’s used by places like the AP, MSNBC, BBC and lots of blogs in the United States alone. The site is also a Mobile First web strategy (more on that later).

How well does it work?

We got out at least four major awards from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2012 for this website and blog. The Crossville News is one of only two Tennessee newspapers to win ASNE awards in 2012. Earlier we talked about the blog, which is also part of the site. It’s nice to know that people are reading what we’re putting out. Any server in any company can crash, but we’re fortunate to work for a place that handles our website well and hasn’t had any downtime for it.

It’s not just our website, though. We also have a print newspaper here in Crossville (The Crossville Chronicle). Both are produced by the same company and share their server with us. Those two things alone show how much we value technology and its place in journalism today.

We have various features such as videos, photo galleries and more on our website as well. If a user wants to submit a news tip or local story idea, they can do so on the site. We have a fairly extensive social media presence and we encourage viewers to connect with us via Facebook, Twitter and more. We also have some fun tools such as our interactive school district map and our county election results map. The latter was used during the 2012 presidential election last November that garnered 456,000 hits!

What else?

Our website has been built on Drupal for two years now, but we’ll soon be moving quite possibly our entire back-end services over to WordPress and the WordPress Content Management System (CMS). As I mentioned earlier, our site is Mobile First and runs on a mobile version of Drupal. Our print newspaper, The Crossville Chronicle, was built with the same CMS. We’ve been able to test out the WordPress CMS with great results, so we’re excited to get past the transition in a few months.

We also use Squarespace for our website design. Squarespace is a content management system for creating websites and blogs. It’s also pretty simple to use and gives us some powerful tools that we can tweak to fit our needs and budget as well as other things we can do to improve it even more.

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