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J-Lab launches "how-to" site for community publishing

For immediate release
Aug. 24, 2005
Contact Jan Schaffer
(301) 985-4020

COLLEGE PARK, Md., a how-to digital handbook for designing, launching and sustaining an online community news site was launched today by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland.

The Web site offers 20 chapters and more than 60 subsections of basic skills training on how to plan a site, build it, use the latest off-the-shelf software to add online features, and then market it and track users.

J-Learning is designed to be a comprehensive tool that any layman, student or fledgling new media person could use to launch a local news Web site,” said Jan Schaffer,’s executive editor.

J-Learning was created to help support J-Lab’s “New Voices” project, a pioneering program offering micro-grants to 20 community news start-ups through 2006.  Both initiatives are administered by J-Lab and supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

J-Learning, however, is also expected to prove useful to small-market news organizations seeking to add more online news and to journalism programs teaching new media skills, said Schaffer, who directs J-Lab.

The site offers basic training in Web site creation, HTML, page design and use of photos, audio, video, animation, surveys and databases. It also offers tips on advertising, fundraising and e-commerce to help sustain these efforts.

It encourages users to ask questions, post comments, make recommendations about better software and showcase what they have built.

Reporting and researching J-Learning’s content were Hop Studios’ Susannah Gardner and Travis Smith, partners in a Vancouver Internet consulting firm. Gardner is the author of Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies (, published in March 2005, and co-author of two other Internet-publishing guides: Dreamweaver MX 2004 for Dummies and Teach Yourself Visually: Dreamweaver MX 2004

Travis F. Smith has been a long-time online journalism lecturer in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and previously helped to run and the Los Angeles Times Web site.

All’s content was edited by J-Lab’s staff.

J-Lab, a center of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, helps news organizations and citizens use new information ideas and innovative computer technologies to develop new ways for people to engage in public issues. It spotlights interactive news exercises and rewards cutting-edge innovations through its Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. It also funds hyperlocal citizens media ventures through its New Voices project.

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American University School of CommunicationJohn S. and James L. Knight FoundationJ-LabNew Voices is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
New Voices is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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