My name is Ernie Smith, and I’m a laid-off journalist.
Much like many other journalists slaving away for the The-Insert-Your-Metro-Here-Daily-News-Press, I was recently cut (along with my entire paper) in a spate of budget cuts. For me, the loss of my paper strikes as a particularly low (but understandable, given the economy) blow, as we were near profitability and were very popular within the community.
One of the things Link, my paper, specialized in was breaking down content in really innovative and short ways, telling entire stories with just numbers, pull quotes, fact boxes and other forms of visual storytelling. It was made for people who don’t have a lot of time and want a lot of information, with a sense of humor to boot.
Knowing that I’d be out of work for the time being (I have some job prospects that I’m waiting on but won’t be able to follow up on until the new year), I chose to give myself a project that would take the place of the 40 hours I’d usually work instead. The idea is called ShortFormBlog, and I consider it my attempt to take the structural ideas and philosophies of Link and make them work in a Web format. Rather than have a blog designed to be really long, I wanted to make one that was really short.
I templated the thing in Illustrator, inspired after talking to a buddy, then decided that even though my layout aspirations were a bit bigger than my HTML skill set (which has grown rusty in the last four years), I would try to see how I could make it work.
As it turned out, WordPress was well-suited to the endeavor, thanks to its custom fields feature. Among the tricks it allows me to do: I can set up fact boxes in different styles based on the number I use in an individual post. If I only want to use one, it gives me a single, large box; if I use three, it gives me a trio of small boxes.
The nice thing about the site’s setup is that due to the custom fields feature, I can add new blog styles at will without a lot of extra work. Everything’s brought up dynamically: I made a point to see if I could figure out things using CSS and only CSS.
What’s the point? The focus, simply, is to create a general-interest news site that has room to scale up if it grows and provides an alternative to things like Fark or Digg, emphasizing the whole aggregated-content thing that they do so well but designing it so that journalists can sort of sculpt what you see in a smart, context-filled way.
Check out what I’m doing at http://shortformblog.com/.
I launched the site, with much help from posters here, on January 1st. It’s still a work in progress, but one I’m putting myself behind completely. Read a little more about how it came to be at journalism blogger Charles Apple’s Web site: http://www.visualeditors.com/apple/2009/01/links-ernie-smith-launches-new-short-form-blog/
As I finish typing this, looking at the framed staff send-off cover of Link that everyone signed reminds me of how rough the last month has been for me and the 18 other people laid off at Link (and heck, the 125 overall laid off at my company). But this whole process of creating ShortFormBlog has been very therapeutic in trying to figure out that, no, this whole Web design thing isn’t quite as scary as I assumed it to be. And that’s endearing.
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