This column appeared in the April 1 edition of the Delaware State News.
By Andrew West Delaware State News
DOVER — When you finish with today's print edition, go online.
We've got much more to offer.
Anyone looking for a online community devoted exclusively to Central and Downstate Delaware now has a new destination.
The Delaware State News recently debuted its newly redesigned web site, newszap.com.
The site, found on the web at http://delaware.newszap.com, now features daily news updates, sports briefs and scores, an easy-to-use calendar for community events, and tips and advice on where to find live entertainment.
Photos and videos help to round out the content mix.
"Posting news and information on current events is a big step on the way to making our online community broader and more inclusive," said Darel La Prade, the company's senior vice president for new media.
Now that it has been redesigned, the site overall has a whole new look and feel. For simplicity, the new design consolidates many pages that were on the old site. No longer will a visitor find numerous, static "community home pages" – rather each state site now focuses on larger communities of interest. The emphasis is on interactive features. Visitors can participate in polls and post events to the events calendars.
Comments on stories are also encouraged. As the site grows, a line-up of local bloggers will be added to stimulate discussion and to provide different points of view and perspective.
In addition, the site accepts free online classified ads, and all the retail ads from the Delaware State News and its sister newspapers, Sussex County Post, Milford Chronicle and The Journal also appear on the site, along with an online Yellow Pages business directory.
The mainstay of the restructured site remains the public issue and opinion forums that were prominently featured on the old site. The forums, however, no longer stand alone and now are closely integrated with the rest of Newszap. This makes it easy for visitors to navigate between the forums and the rest of the site, including the news updates.
"Linking news and current events to ready access to the forums should stimulate and inform the public discussion and debate that our members are conducting in our forums," Mr. La Prade said.
The forums on newszap.com have always been driven and controlled by the members, who pledge to exercise their right to free speech with civility. Personal attacks that stray away from the issue being discussed seem to be the biggest problem for our webmaster team (and for a civil society).
"The forums are a remarkable example of a cohesive, though sometimes rambunctious, online community," Mr. La Prade said. "Our approach with the forums has not changed, nor will it, but it is our intention to extend and grow the newszap.com community.
"A website is never finished; it is always a work in progress," Mr. La Prade added. "We sincerely hope that those who visit the site will take the time to join and become a member of the delaware.newszap.com community."
We welcome suggestions.
As you click your way around delaware.newszap.com, you might want to make a special visit to the photo galleries in the Central Delaware section where we recently featured the beautiful display of tulips in Dover and the festive atmosphere of the city's St. Patrick's Day parade.
Sometimes, delaware.newszap.com will be able to give you bonus fun with videos, like the Dover, Caesar Rodney and Polytech performances showcased in the Entertainment section.