Friday, May 4, 2012

Filling the lab with opportunity

The call to #fillthelab takes on new meaning for The Mercury audience and residents of the Pottstown tri-county area, with the announcement today that our Community Media Lab was selected as one of 10 newspapers throughout Digital First Media to get funding for a community room project. Our proposal, sent in January to DFM head of community engagement Steve Buttry, was among dozens vying for selection as a corporate-sponsored project The competition for the honor -- and dollars -- to remodel or create new facilities for community outreach was fierce. Digital First Media includes more than 70 properties and more than 150 websites throughout the country, including properties as large as The Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, and St. Paul Pioneer Press. Some of the proposals included vans, pop-up mobile labs and an extension of already successful and honored community newsroom projects. Ours was modest by comparison. (You can read our proposal here.) Then came the Fill the Community Media Lab food drive. As we wrote about the success of the drive, as Community Media Lab bloggers solicited and collected food, as the community room -- our lab -- filled with canned goods and boxes of oatmeal, our modest proposal took on new meaning. A town that engages that much with its newspaper deserves a community room, our corporate leadership team determined. And so today, the announcement by DFM of community rooms and mobile labs includes The Mercury. In coming weeks, we will work on a remodeling of our media lab to make it more inviting for the community use. We'll be setting up some computer stations for blogging, access to our archives with a refurbished microfilm machine, a more open space for meetings and workshops. We'll host some guest speakers, showcase local student art, and partner on events and open house activities with other organizations, including the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority and the Pottstown Arts and Cultural Alliance. This is an exciting opportunity for our staff at The Mercury, but it is even more an opportunity for the bloggers in our Town Square network and for the community as a whole. And that makes sense because it was the people of Pottstown who made this happen. By filling the lab in a spirit of fighting hunger in our towns, our readers have given us a chance to fill the lab with more opportunities to make a difference.

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