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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 She started her career in journalism as military affairs reporter at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash.

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Visit NWNavyNews

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.

Getting ready to deploy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Work began this week on building the first version of Northwest Navy News. Expect to see the site make its debut sometime in the next few weeks.

I’m working with Greg Bear and his team at Bear Ideas, a Web development firm in Seattle that specializes in the open-source content management system called Drupal. This platform allows for quick development because it already has so many features common to community sites and blogs.

For the first incarnation of Northwest Navy News, I’m focusing on pages with resources for families being stationed at each of the four Navy base locations in the Puget Sound area. The site also will have topic pages on family issues, education and housing, as well as blog-like news posts, forums and basic user profiles.

I’m setting the groundwork to compile a searchable database of businesses offering military discounts. Companies will be able to use a form to add their information. Down the road I expect to offer enhanced listings, with a coupon or detailed message, for a fee—the first idea for how the site might support itself.

While the Bear Ideas team does its work with the code, I’m looking for ways to develop more content and starting to get the word out about the project. I’m using Twitter to post links and information, as well as to connect with Navy and Coast Guard families.

The timing of all this feels fortuitous. In the last year, the military began embracing social media and networking like never before.

The Pentagon launched its own version of YouTube called TroopTube. The Navy surveyed 15,000 sailors on how they use technology, including social networking. And most, if not all, branches created official blogs and policies about social media.

Complex issues of control are still involved when you talk about the military and any form of media, but I’m hopeful that the environment is right for a site like Northwest Navy News.

   • Posted by Elaine Helm Norton on 01/14 at 01:34 PM