The Free Press is a Canadian newspaper thinking a bit differently as the world of media shifts online. The newspaper decided to engage their readership in a physical space by opening up a news cafe. The cafe is staffed with three full-time journalists who sit in the brightly decorated space writing, meeting with sources and chatting with readers passing by.
The live studio was launched 6 months ago by John White, the deputy online editor, and serves as a work space for journalists, a meeting space for readers and also an interview locale for local sources. Staff is encouraged to meet their contacts in the coffee shop and newspaper readers are invited to join in the process, as opposed to watching from the street. This type of reader engagement is making the entire process seem more inclusive and participatory.
This walk-in-and-chat type of newsroom is a rarely found concept but in an age of online and digital engagement, may be just what a newspapers needs to bring their readers in by using a real life environment.
Although situated in a bustling cafe one of the founders of the project says that this environment is actually quite suited for effective social media work. “Social media is actually work that is well suited for this type of environment. It is all about connecting people and if I am going to be doing that, I may as well be doing it in a public space.” Lights and multiple television screens oftentimes attract pedestrians walking past and the overall environment brings a nostalgia of a bustling newsroom from days past.
This is an interesting example of one newspaper going against the digital tide and engaging their readership in a real-world, physical environment. We will watch as this social newsroom experiments unfolds.