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Your Local Newspaper: Dispatch transition has been a major overhaul

On Jan. 1, the ownership of the Brainerd Dispatch and Echo Journal properties changed hands. Forum Communications Co. of Fargo purchased us and, from day one, has been investing in new equipment and systems. So far it has not been just a new coat of paint; it has been a complete overhaul. Starting from the base up, every computer has been replaced; new servers are in place; all new software has been installed and extensive training is nearing completion.

If you asked a person on the street; “What does it take to get the news to your door or computer?” most could not tell you. We employ over 80 people and they work in many different departments, performing daily functions to get products to our readers. If asked, some of us would guess the obvious departments like news and advertising. There are so many more, like billing, circulation, distribution, press, design, pre-press, IT, online.

Where am I going with this?

Except for maybe the press, every department system, every database and software has been changed. We have transitioned to a complete new way of communicating and sharing documents or information internally using Google systems. The end result has been that every person has had to be retrained in their positions and learn all of these new systems. It has been less than six months and the training has been massive, as you can imagine. Forum Communications has given the resilient Brainerd staffers excellent support and its team members deserve much credit for what we have accomplished so far.

Yes, there have been glitches and changes. Many of you have continued to make us aware of those and tell us what you like or dislike. We would expect nothing less. We are about to enter a new phase that will test all of our training so far.

This week we will throw away the way we have published for years and will begin building our online and print products differently. FCC has been working with Google to develop new ways to share documents and information to accommodate publishing to multi-media platforms. To my knowledge no one else in the publishing business has tried to do this to this extent. The Forum group of daily and weekly publications number over 35. One of them, The Bemidji Pioneer, has taken the lead helping to develop this cutting edge technology. Google has been working with them and, now that they have gotten out the bugs, we will be using the same systems starting next week.

We have been prepping for this changeover and last week we introduced our new responsive website. This new design makes our website re-size and work with any phone or tablet. The good thing is we now can play equally well on any make of device with any screen size. The bad thing is, so far, it’s not working perfectly. We have temporarily lost the ability to link to features like archives, our personnel contact info, and I’m sure there are other things we are not aware of yet. These will be corrected as quickly as we can find them and fix them. If you have stuck with me so far, you are now getting the idea of what I meant when I said a complete overhaul.

What’s ahead? Obviously the system installations and changes have been done in the background these last few months. With these system innovations and installations the ability to make product changes has been increasingly noticeable, like the web and online changes, obituaries, classifieds and others. As we go live with Google Publishing we will be entering the last of major changes. We ask that you continue to give us feedback and contact us if something is not working right. Maybe you just have a question we can answer. Later this year when we have completed our transition we plan to have an open house for the public to give you a chance to see your newspaper at work.

We have been an award-winning newspaper with over 130 years of history documenting lives in the communities we serve. Nothing is going to change that heritage. When all the current changes are complete, I believe we will be an integral part of a leading innovative information network. Forum Communications Co. and Forum News Service are ready to meet the changing demands of our fast-paced lifestyle for many years to come. They are organizations of which we are proud to be a part.

TIM BOGENSCHUTZ is publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch.