NEW YORK In recent years, the McClatchy Washington, D.C., Web site was used primarily as a place to post stories from the bureau that serves the chain's 31 newspapers, without much thought to making it a destination spot for Web surfers.
That all changed Monday when the previously stoic online space transformed into a mix of blogs, video, reader comments and even cartoons that may eventually rival the hippest news Web sites around. Editors also plan to add reader video in the future and more staff-written blogs. The site is at www.mcclatchydc.com.
"The biggest single thing is the interactivity," said bureau chief John Walcott, whose staff also includes the paper's eight foreign correspondents. "We are trying to make it a destination site for the kind of journalism we do, not a breaking news site, to highlight our brand of news."
That brand has included award-winning foreign coverage, as well as a Washington news team credited in recent years with major scoops on pre-war intelligence failures and the recent U.S. Attorney scandal. But prior to this week, most of the stories and photos were posted with none of the online tools used by most other news sites.
Under the new design, five of the foreign bureau chiefs are blogging, with plans for other Washington-linked staffers to do so. Previously, blogs had been posted from Iraq and China, but only one from a bureau chief. The new site also provides space for reader comment with every story, and videos that include a feature in which visitors outside the White House are asked, on camera, for comments.
The first question put to them: If you had a minute with President Bush, what would you ask him? Responses have ranged from "stop deceiving the American people" to "I would ask him about various hunting trips."
"We will shortly have people be able to post their own videos," said Walcott. "I hope within days we will be able to have that ready to launch." More blogs, likely connected to the 2008 presidential campaign, are expected as well. Walcott adds that reader-supplied video will be a way to keep close tabs on candidates, too.
"As the campaign rolls on, we may get more campaign-related stuff," Walcott said of the videos. "Videos of various makaka moments, perhaps." He said all submitted work will be screened.
The site offers Iraq War coverage, with links along the top of the home page to sections devoted to Iraq, veterans, as well as longtime military writer Joe Galloway's column. It's Inside Iraq blog, with haunting postings from McClatchy's Iraqi staffers, has already made an impact.
In addition, an ongoing Q&A with columnist and quadrennial presidential candidate Dave Barry is provided, as are other Q&A's with McClatchy writers, including those who are covering the U.S. Attorney scandal.
Cartoons, meanwhile, are added on a weekly basis, with contributors from all but one of the McClatchy papers.
"This Web site is and will continue to be a work in progress," Walcott said.