Lonnie Brown, a longtime colleague from my days at The Ledger and a faithful supporter of LkldNow, brought me a memory-filled keepsake last month. It was the cover page of The Ledger’s feature section dated Oct. 15, 1995. I was features editor at the time and I had written that day’s cover story on the Life section.

The article was about this newfangled thing that most of our readers hadn’t heard of yet. It was called The Internet.

The cover illustration showed just how primitive websites were at the time. Exhibit One was the first web page I ever worked on: the home page for The Ledger.

The World Wide Web was still new then, and websites were largely text-based. True to form, this page was mostly text, except for two images: the newspaper logo and a small photo.

The article talked about nine websites based in Polk County; that’s all we had come across so far. We explained an innovation called a link: you could click on a word or phrase and be taken to a different page from a different server anywhere in the world. Automagical!

A box accompanying the article told readers about three places in Polk County where they might able to check out this Internet thing if they were interested. A sidebar article talked about the very few ways to get an Internet connection in Polk County at the time.

The web page shown with the article had been created the previous summer when The Ledger’s then-publisher, Don Whitworth, was nice enough to give me a few months to investigate how publications were using digital communication and to draft a business plan to take The Ledger online.

It would be another three years before we actually launched a full-fledged website that published news and ads on a daily basis. But during those years I created several new versions of theledger.com as Web tools gave us more control over display of text and images.

The second half of my 32 years at The Ledger was devoted to running the newspaper’s digital operations. We innovated constantly, adapting as technology gave us new tools — audio, video, complex databases, interactive graphics, etc.

And years later my immersion into digital reporting culminated in LkldNow. The time I spent editing news and adopting new digital technologies all inform the journalism we practice at LkldNow.

Web technology isn’t evolving as rapidly, but we still continue to adapt. LkldNow recently switched to a publication system called Newspack that was created specifically for small and medium-sized digital news operations by people who are acknowledged experts in the field.

I love the new tools we have to display news and to engage readers. And recently I sat in on a webinar where other Newspack publishers and I learned of all the ways our new system will change in 2023 to adapt to evolving web standards.

It’s been an exciting journey. Even though I knew deep down back in the early 1990s that digital would be the future of news, I could never have anticipated how that single page on the World Wide Web would guide my career toward establishing a new community-focused source for local news in Lakeland.

Thank you for reading LkldNow, supporting LkldNow and being part of the journey.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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  1. Barry, as always, thanks for the article. I wonder if one day you might share the top 3 or so stories you have reported on over the past 40 years – whether they be controversial, explosive, emotional, game changers etc. Thanks for what you do!

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