On creating Wired 868

Lasana Liburd. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

For the column Journalism 2017: Rethinking the Newsroom, I asked Lasana Liburd, Editor and Founder of the online publication Wired 868 about his experiences setting up the project as well as its online predecessor, TnT Times. Wired 868 has been online since January 2012.

“With the TnT Times, I was the chief editor but not the owner and the business model was not mine.
We were told that there was funding for six months and there was already good feedback from potential advertisers. But we never saw evidence of either and I think it folded within three months.”

“I think TnT Times was even better equipped to succeed because of the team we put together and we got off to a really good start. I had Cedriann Martin, Fazeer Mohammed, Earl Best and Erline Andrews on board among others.”

“When I started Wired868, it was stripped down and built to survive on very little finances which was not the case with the TnT Times. Of course the business model was different but I suppose the fact that it was built to withstand tough financial times was probably the most important thing.”

“Many times it feels like doing a high wire walk without a safety net. Because suddenly I’m without a lot of the structural support that I was accustomed to in the traditional media.”

“Your headlines are different [online], paragraph spacing, hyperlinks change the way you can offer context, the way you use photographs in an article…I’m always thinking about how things impact visually for readers at Wired868.” 
“Outside of that, I’m still a traditional newsman and that’s how I operate. I never take liberties–regarding libel, for instance–that I wouldn’t in old media.”

“The engagement with readers is the most awesome thing once you embrace it. There are some readers who keep me on my toes and won’t hesitate to tag me and call me out on any issue whatsoever. I think they read every article with that sole purpose!”

“That keeps me sharp. And I would have loved to have that when I wrote for the Trinidad Express.
It is also a great feeling when a specialist steps in and really adds to a story I wrote in a way that I can’t. So I learn something too and it makes for a better follow up article.”

“In traditional media, you feel like the story ends after that final punctuation mark. But online, I see my pieces as conversation starters and we remain part of the dialogue in a way that didn’t happen before. I’m always excited to see and engage in the conversation after I do a story and I am rarely disappointed.”

“I’m definitely more exposed too because you’re obliged to have a much higher level of interaction with your readers. And those readers will hold you to international standards and not local ones as the internet means you are competing for attention with anything else they can access online.”

“I think it is exciting, challenging and humbling–all at the same time. And I say humbling because there WILL be mistakes. And also because, once you post enough comments, the mask drops and people see a bit of your true nature. So never be fake!”