Likely the most popular feature in the Norwalk Reflector is the ReflectorCam, which runs on Wednesdays. Outside of placing ads for yard sales, submission of ReflectorCam photos probably brings more foot traffic to our building than anything else.
According to news editor Matt Roche, who's in charge week in and week out of producing the page, we frequently have a backlog of photos readers have submitted and we do our best to get them published. Often we have to add another ReflectorCam page or two to the paper later in the week to keep up.
Testimony to the popularity of ReflectorCam is all the work that is involved in getting a photo published. Someone has to shoot a photo, get film developed and then either come to the Reflector or mail it to us.
To build on this strength, we will soon be deploying what we are calling "ReflectorCam 2.0." ReflectorCam 2.0 will be a special section on norwalkreflector.com where readers with digital cameras (or scanned prints) can go online and in a snap post their own photos without having to have any contact with our staff.
You will be able to post your own photos and even create an entire gallery for your event. You can, for instance, if you so desire, download 25 photos from little Catherine's birthday party, enabling friends and families from throughout the galaxy to log on see them.
ReflectorCam 2.0 will have two sections: "We Spotted," which will feature photos shot by Reflector photographers at various events around the county; and "You Spotted," which will be photos readers post to the site.
Watch for ReflectorCam 2.0 to be rolled out in the next month or so.
This Web thing, we're quickly learning, can be a little scary, particularly for a somewhat squeamish and prudish person like me.
I'm used to being in complete control of everything we publish. For the more than 20 years I've been in newspapers, that's how we have operated. Nothing got in the paper unless it was OK'd by the editor. That's not to say I've never published things that probably shouldn't have I have. It just didn't happen that often.
With reader forums and now ReflectorCam 2.0, we are relinquishing more and more of that control at least where the Web site is concerned. While I'm getting used to it now, implementing the reader forums on the Web site was a big change for me, one that caused no small amount of stress. I was spending about half my days logged on to the site reading the comments the public was posting, looking for foul or abusive language and defamatory comments. While we try not to, we sometimes are forced to remove comments that we have deemed to be unacceptable for a family newspaper to be associated with.
I used to have trouble sleeping worrying about what readers would post, now I only wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night a couple times a week.
In implementing the forums, we were advised not to get too hung up about what people wrote, that eventually, those who used the sites would police the site, and that's happened to some extent. While some comments are still crude, it's a lot less frequent than it was when we started. We are working on technology now that will require people to register before being allowed to comment. You will still be able to comment anonymously, we'll just know who you are and we will be able to lock out those who abuse the privilege.
Allowing people to post anonymously whether comments or photos is certainly risky, but freedom is always risky and it's a scary concept to many people. I think the benefit of providing a forum where citizens can debate and discuss important topics far outweighs the occasional curse word or bare backside that might momentarily make its way on to the site. We cannot police the site 24 hours a day and we ask you to help us by alerting us to any questionable material at (419) 668-3771 or email@example.com as soon as you see it.
In the meantime, we appreciate the hundreds of people who have been using norwalkreflector.com responsibly, even if many of the comments have been critical of the Reflector. You've given us many things to think about and it makes us better reporters and a better newspaper, just as criticism of the government should make our government stronger and more responsive.
Be that as it may, the first time I see someone's bare backside on ReflectorCam 2.0, I'm calling the cops.