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Vol. 23, No.1/Fall 2000

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Intranet Q&A...
Putting the Sun-Sentinel on the (Sun) Spot

By Jalyn Kelly
With Lisa Peterson, Senior Intranet Developer, Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale)


See images of SunSpot:
Homepage of SunSpot, the Sun-Sentinel's editorial intranet.
A Sources Database, one of the most recent additions to SunSpot, was launched August 30th.


How and when was the intranet launched?

SunSpot, our Editorial intranet, was launched in February 1999. The launch included:

  • Promotional materials: a descriptive brochure, notepads, cups and pens with the intranet URL and logo.
  • Activities: drawings for T-shirts and an online scavenger hunt.
  • Attended the weekly editors meeting the week prior to the launch to give them a 'sneak preview'.
  • Set up a booth in the newsroom with a colorful banner and balloons to demonstrate the intranet throughout the day of the launch.
  • Visited our other offices to give a live demonstration and distribute promotional materials.

Is the intranet a newsroom-only intranet or part of a corporate intranet?

SunSpot is focused specifically on providing content relevant to the newsroom. The Editorial site was extremely successful and within the past year the Sun-Sentinel has allocated additional resources to create sites for other divisions.

Describe the news library's role in the development and maintenance of the intranet.

The Sun-Sentinel's Editorial Research Center (ERC) has always been actively involved with the intranet. The original Editorial intranet team included several members from the Editorial Research Center who contributed extensive research content to the site. The ERC continues to maintain the internet links as well as internal content such as population and crime information. The ERC also contributes to an extensive Computer Assisted Reporting area that includes mapping applications, population statistics, demographic information, information on registered voters, zip code maps, etc. Finally, the ERC provides valuable intranet training for both new and existing staff.

What areas of the intranet do reporters and editors find most useful?

The Sun-Sentinel's text archive is probably the most frequently used application on the intranet. We've added links to several of our sister papers' archives as well. The daily announcements serve as an important communication device and include useful 'TechTips' as well as updates throughout the day on important issues such as computer system problems. Finally, there are several useful online links such as the Property Appraiser, the Department of Corrections and the Florida Division of Corporations Public Access Database.

How has the intranet changed the way people in your newsroom perform their daily jobs?

SunSpot has provided the staff with both a valuable communication device and a tool that enables them to access multiple applications via a single platform right on their desktops. For example, when newsroom personnel log onto their computers in the morning, the intranet launches automatically. They can read the Daily Announcements and minimize it for easy reference throughout the day. They use it as a common interface to access the Photo Archive, the Text Archive, staff phone numbers, internet links, a Sources Database, an Online Staffbook and the Sun-Sentinel Stylebook. In addition, reporters working remotely can use the Intranet to send their stories directly into our front end system (CCI Newsdesk).

Has the intranet gone through any major redesigns?

SunSpot was redesigned and re-launched in December 1999. The biggest change was the addition of more database-driven pages. These pages not only made the site more dynamic, but many of them also provided a mechanism for staff members to update the databases through web-based forms. These forms are user-friendly and allow the site to be updated by people without needing programming knowledge or additional software (i.e. FrontPage).

What insights would you share with someone developing an intranet?

Take the time to plan. It's better to build it right the first time than to have to backtrack later on. The intranet team is also very important. The team should include members with different areas of expertise who can represent the different potential users of the site (for Editorial, members of the newsroom) as well as people with some technical expertise. When planning and developing the site it is important to include both members of your audience and people who can build what they need.

Anything else you would like to add?

Our intranet philosophy has always been to make life easier for our users. This includes making information and tools more accessible via a web browser. It also includes minimizing maintenance requirements. We try to keep maintenance as close as possible to where the information was created so that people are not duplicating their efforts. For example, the Sun-Sentinel Newsroom Stylebook Committee now only maintains the Sun-Sentinel Stylebook in one location - the intranet. They have access to a web page where they can add, edit or delete terms themselves and it immediately updates the online stylebook.

If you would like to spotlight your newsroom's intranet in the next News Library News, please contact Jalyn Kelley at Jalyn Kelley is a researcher at CSC Consulting.


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