ViaNolaVie: How it all started

The women behind ViaNolaVie (Renee Peck, left; Dr. Vicki Mayer, center; Kelley Crawford, right)

Like all successful partnerships, ViaNolaVie started with a shared idea, a mutual need, a lot of passion and a wide-ranging conversation over a few good meals.

The idea was to create a new kind of non-profit/academic digital destination for content about all things New Orleans; it would be by and for both those who live here and those who want to learn authentically about local lifestyle and culture.

The passion was supplied by Tulane Professor of Communication and Media, Vicki Mayer, who created the student-generated cultural website MediaNola; Renee Peck, co-founder and editor of NolaVie; Kelley Crawford, managing editor of NolaVie; and the late Sharon Litwin, c0-founder of the 6-year-old digital magazine NolaVie.

The mutual need involved a 21st-century platform that would merge the two New Orleans-centric sites, and house well-written and well-researched content, create a searchable archive and offer a user-friendly back-end application for both contributors and educators. It is a place where educational curriculum is live and culture and community is at the center of everything. 

For the past two years, the creators of ViaNolaVie used community-based design thinking principles in a series of classes taught by Dr. Mayer at the Phyllis M. Taylor School of Social Innovation and Design Thinking, and community interviews and outreach. 

Professors, professional journalists, editors, and students researched the best user interface, organizational strategies for content, and how to keep the content hyper-local and community focused.  There were focus groups, one-on-one interviews with peers and professional journalists to fine-tune the process, and some great fun along the way as well. Add to that Blake Bertuccelli of Decubing Web Design, and you have a prototype where imaginations become reality. 

The result is ViaNolaVie, the digital magazine you see here. It has an archive of more than 4,000 stories about New Orleans that were migrated from NolaVie and MediaNola. Like NolaVie, the new site offers a home page that publishes curated content from professional writers and artists, bloggers, students and community partners. Like MediaNola, it archives articles about New Orleans written by Tulane student researchers.

ViaNolaVie works on a citizen journalist model. Anyone can submit material for publication. Editors sift through all the stories submitted and choose the best to feature on the website. A ViaNolaVie newsletter highlights a selection of stories and is delivered weekly to subscribers’ in-boxes.

An innovative aspect of ViaNolaVie lies in its offerings to educators: Teachers can use its Word Press system for student writing, editing and peer review.  Teacher-approved articles are considered for publication, and all student content goes into the ViaNolaVie archive. That creates a major repository of academically researched stories about the city that not only can be searched and enjoyed by users for decades to come, but also offers professional bylines and retrievable writing samples for student authors.

ViaNolaVie welcomes participation from both individuals and community partners. Articles on these pages are marked with logos, so that readers know the source of our content.

So please, join us. Click on the button at the top of the page to subscribe, and direct your thoughts and stories our way. If you have questions or comments, please send them to info@vianolavie.org.

The journey to get here has been a team affair, and we thank you in advance for joining ours.

 

 

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