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Elaine Helm Norton

ELAINE HELM NORTON Elaine Helm Norton is the new media editor for The Herald newspaper in Everett, Wash., where she oversees news and multimedia content for HeraldNet.com. She started her career in journalism as military affairs reporter at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash.

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Project Blog: Northwest Navy News

This participatory site will serve the 140,000 active-duty Navy and Coast Guard members, reservists, base employees and retirees in the Puget Sound area with database-driven, interactive guides to housing, schools, military discounts, and a social network for military spouses and children coping with deployment and family relocation. Project leader Elaine Helm Norton, new media editor at The Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., and a former military beat reporter, envisions a “medium for military families in the region to connect with one another and also for journalists like me to connect with them. … Nobody in journalism or the military has done much online to engage” military families. Follow her progress here. Visit their website.

Ideas and inspiration from Navy wives

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A group of women that meets at the sprawling Navy support complex in Marysville, Wash., once a month while their husbands are deployed prepare for when their ship returns. The group’s leaders invited me to join them last Friday evening to get ideas for my project. I talked with the women while they worked on their own project—a surprise for the day their husbands return.

“I didn’t even know where to start,” one woman told me when I asked if she used any social networking sites to find support in the Puget Sound area. Another woman said she used Meetup.com to find activities and meet people, and several others said they connected with Navy wives on MySpace.

Several women said they used Web sites like GreatSchools.net, checked sex offender registries and called local police departments before they moved to the area to decide where they should live. Some relied on family or friends for advice. Others got suggestions from a Navy housing office and then did more research on their own.

One thing they mentioned that hadn’t occurred to me was that it would be helpful to list laws that vary from state to state, governing things like drivers licensing, car insurance, gun ownership and landlord-tenant responsibilities.

These women were inspiring and full of great ideas based on their experiences. I’m grateful they invited me to their gathering. I hope to meet with more groups like this and continue to learn from them as I move forward with my project.

   • Posted by Elaine Helm Norton on 08/28 at 02:11 PM

Friends and allies are keys to getting started

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A steady trickle of phone calls, e-mails, Tweets and Facebook messages have arrived from colleagues since the announcement of this award. And as I would expect from journalists, they have questions. “Are you leaving The Herald?” No, I’m doing this as a side project. “Have you considered Ning as a platform?” I haven’t thought too much about platforms yet, until I determine what information and features the site will have. “Do you need help with copy editing/Web development/writing?” Yes, yes and yes, thank you. “When you get rich, will you hire me.” We’ll see about that.

All of these questions are good ones—well, I’m pretty sure the last one was a joke. I’m lucky to have such smart friends and coworkers. But my first steps for this project involve a basic skill in journalism and business: networking. Beginning this week, I’m meeting with sources for some of the in-depth information about the Navy community that I hope to collect. I’m also meeting with members of the community I hope to serve. I want to tell them about my ideas and find out what they think would be most useful.

Networking for this project poses several challenges. Time and geography are the most basic. I’m squeezing in meetings and phone calls around my day job in Everett, and Puget Sound is a huge body of water, which makes travel tricky. The trip from Everett to Bremerton, for example, is 28 miles of driving and an hour-long ferry ride. Add in ferry waiting time and it can take more than two hours in one direction. The other major challenge is building on my existing relationships with official Navy sources and forging new relationships with people I hope to serve with the Northwest Navy News site. The approach to these relationships from both sides will change a little because I’m not working on behalf of an established news organization. It’s new territory for everyone involved, which makes it as exciting as it is challenging.

If you’re reading this post and you have a connection to the Puget Sound area’s military community, I’d love to hear from you. You can leave your comments here, send me an e-mail, @ me on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn or find me on Facebook. I need as many allies as possible.

   • Posted by Elaine Helm Norton on 08/06 at 02:44 PM