Have you seen our Web site?

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- If you picked up the Feb. 8 Satellite Flyer, you might have read about the base's Feb. 1 African-American Heritage Month kickoff breakfast on the front page. If you visited our public Web site at www.schriever.af.mil, you might have seen the story almost a full week sooner.

Timeliness is one of the advantages we can provide through publishing news and feature stories on the Schriever Web site. It's one of the primary reasons why the Air Force is moving to the World Wide Web to get its messages out to Airmen, and it's one of the reasons the 50th Space Wing was the first installation in Air Force Space Command to embrace the new Air Force Public Web system.

Before I go into some of the other advantages, let me flash back to July 2006. Public affairs experts from around the Air Force gathered at Peterson Air Force Base to discuss how 30-percent cuts in our career field would affect the way we do business.

I sneaked into a spot at the three-day conference as well, telling myself that I was only there to listen. As it happened, however, the experts wanted to hear about the experience of someone who was at the "boots on the ground" level of PA. 

The group used Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century processes to examine our newspaper production process. We found that an average base PA shop spends 16 to 20 hours on layout and design of a base newspaper above and beyond what it spends to actually produce news stories.

This translates to somewhere between 2,400 and 3,000 man-hours public affairs experts around the Air Force use up each week for arguably minimum added value. In contrast, we could save more than 90 percent of this time by publishing stories and photos on the Web.

My personal experience as editor and as manager of Schriever's public Web site contributed to those figures, and our newspaper process at Schriever continues to reflect these numbers. The impact here is that we miss a lot of Tuesday and Wednesday stories we might otherwise be able to cover, because we are laying out the paper.

The conference participants concluded that news via the Web should be our primary product. We would continue to publish high-quality stories and photographs that communicate our commanders' messages, but with a focus on publishing on the Internet instead of a base newspaper. Brig. Gen. Michelle Johnson, Air Force director of public affairs, endorsed those findings and recommendations in October.

This brings me back to some of the other advantages I had mentioned earlier. We have an opportunity to be more timely with a Web-based product -- instead of waiting until Thursday to tell you about important events such as the annual awards banquet or a snowshoe race, we can share these stories with you earlier in the week as they happen.
We can also offer different types of content on the Web. Through the Web, you can watch streaming video of Air Force Space Today and other news stories around the Air Force.

The feature that I'm most hyped about, though, is that the Schriever Web site will let the base community interact in an open and informal environment. Air Force Link's "Letters" section has taken off with people eager to submit their views about news around the Air Force. 

Check it out -- it's as close as your desktop at work, at home and where you travel.