New Local Health Site Combines Journalism, Social Media

Jun 09, 2010, 15:30 ET from Lawrence Journal-World

LAWRENCE, Kan., June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A new local health site, WellCommons™, which integrates social media with journalism, has been launched by the Lawrence Journal-World.



The new site is built with Ellington® Community, a new social media publishing system that provides the community with the same tools used by the site's reporters, including tools to help the community set and achieve its goals to improve health.

"We think this is what journalism looks like in a social media world," said Jane Stevens, director of media strategies for The World Company's media division. Other parts of the division include,,, the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper, 6News, and several community sites and newspapers in Northeast Kansas.

Several aspects of WellCommons™ and Ellington® Community are unique:

-- The site integrates social media with journalism. Reporters and members of the community alike post to the site through a public-facing interface; participants can follow and message each other; they can send posts to Facebook and Twitter.

-- The site helps resolve the "signal to noise" complaint about the web. In other words, its architecture helps people assess the reliability of a particular piece of information. Two ingredients of WellCommons'™ special sauce is that it is built around groups, and participants use their real names.

This is how WellCommons™ works: Anyone can start a group. If you start a group, you put your content into "news" and "resources". People who join your group put their content into the "commons" section. Participants are able to judge the quality of the information in two ways: by who posted the information, and where it's posted. Content in a group's news or resources section is posted by the group "owner", and content in the commons section is posted by anyone who joins that group.

-- WellCommons'™ approach to health reporting is community-based and solution-oriented. Most health sites focus on personal health -- what individuals can do to improve their own or their families' health. But at a local level, health is a community issue. For example, we're all supposed to get regular checkups, but not everyone in a community has access to good health care. Our kids are supposed to eat healthy food, but if school lunch programs provide mac-and-cheese, French fries and few vegetables, then the community is failing those kids. We're all supposed to exercise, but if a community doesn't have enough safe places to walk, jog, bike and play outdoors, then it's difficult for people to improve their health.

-- The site uses a new advertising model. "We believe businesses that provide health products and services are a vital part of the community, and should be included," said Stevens. Businesses can start their own group pages; they pay to do so. They have direct access to and conversations with members of the community. They can also buy traditional display ads.

-- The site was put together with continual input from the local health community. About 40 people -- from nonprofits and the local hospital, physicians, health advocates, people who were uninsured, locavores, etc. -- met regularly with the news organization's working group, and still meet quarterly.

The World Company media division will use Ellington® Community to launch other niche news sites over the next year.

In addition, Ellington® Community will be made available to other organizations -- including media, nonprofits, and community organizations -- from Mediaphormedia, the commercial software arm of The World Company. Mediaphormedia  markets, supports and develops Ellington®, a content management system, and Marketplace, an industry-leading online business directory, which are used by more than 300 organizations around the U.S.

Ellington® and Ellington® Community are based on Django®, a web framework developed at The World Company in 2004 and released as open source in 2005. The World Company is a family-owned media enterprise.

SOURCE Lawrence Journal-World