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posted: 7/10/2014 7:05 AM

We're always finding new ways for people who want to talk

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Back in the olden days when George Carlin was alive and people used email, Carlin had a joke I thought timely and profound. It went something like this: "I've finally discovered what email is for. It's for people who don't want to talk to each other." The quote takes its humor from an obvious irony, but it also implies something serious. Email became popular because people do want to communicate. Since Carlin's death, the role of email has evolved and much of the personal communication it once fostered has moved to different (sorry, George) platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, though new ones like Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and many more emerge constantly.

We may not want to "talk," but we all do want to share our lives, our thoughts and our experiences. Increasingly, we also want to share the news on these platforms, and that has opened an interesting, valuable and not a little complex opportunity for newspapers. Publications like the Daily Herald have long wanted to find ways to build more dynamic relationships with readers. Columns like this one, DuPage/Fox Valley Editor Jim Davis' similar weekly reflections and Editor John Lampinen's occasional Letter From the Editor have their roots in this goal. Now, through various social media venues, what was once a virtual one-way monologue has branched beyond mere dialogue into a multidirectional explosion of interactions.

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We like that. It's good for our readers, good for our communities and good for our democracy when stories and ideas are spread, praised and challenged. It's good for us as a newspaper when you can know our writers and editors better as diverse, complex human beings rather than mere offshoots of an impersonal, one-dimensional institution.

So, we're working hard on ways to take advantage of these new opportunities. This week, editors got an early peek at some advances coming to our website soon that will simplify your ability to share stories -- and for your friends and neighbors to share stories with you -- from dailyherald.com regardless of the type of electronic device you are using.

At the same time, we're doing more to encourage our staff to become active in social media. Often, that will mean reporters sharing their own or their colleagues' stories and soliciting thoughts about them. It may sometimes mean editors asking for ideas about stories to cover or responding to questions about our coverage. Often, it will simply involve staff members reflecting on the events of their lives as any routine Twitter or Facebook user would do -- though therein likes a peculiar complication for us. We aim to be open and interactive, but at the same time, we must take care not to write or say things that compromise the objectivity of our reporting or that may be taken to reflect the positions of the newspaper as a whole, rather than of a single individual.

In addition to following individual reporters or editors, by the way, you already can join us in several ways on Facebook and Twitter. The Daily Herald's primary Facebook page is facebook.com/DailyHeraldFans. Our Twitter handle is @dailyherald. We also talk and share editorials with the Opinion page's Facebook page at facebook.com/DHEditorial.

It's a fascinating and exciting time. For some of us, it might even be a little intimidating. Whatever the case, we know what it's all for. It's for those of us and our readers who do want to talk with each other.

Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.

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