ONA 2008: Starting from Scratch – Las Vegas Sun


Josh Williams, new media projects editor, Las Vegas Sun

Tyson Evans, design editor, Las Vegas Sun


(There has been a lot of discussion of the Las Vegas Sun site online, but here is a tour from two guys who helped create the site.)

They launched the new site using Ellington (Django-based) on Jan. 10, choosing that date to capitalize on the national attention around the caucus. They previously had no videos, no blogs and no comments.

They are only an eight-page paper daily. They had no guidelines when they started redesigning the site.

Videos are 998 pixels wide; you can download in standard or hi-definition.

Videos are fully integrated into their content management system. They mostly shoot video on the Panasonic HVX200.

Photographers only have to upload photos and audio — CMS automatically creates slideshow.

Panoramic feature that features different audio depending on where you navigate in the panorama.

There is a feature built into the CMS that allows Web producers to pull something directly from YouTube or Flickr and embed on the site.

They’ve avoided the broadcast model in doing Web video [their videos are pretty sweet].

What’s next?

They are preparing for video to move to an IP-distributed system (look at the Ethernet jack in the back of your digital cable box). Also, they’ve partnered with a local TV station because they know most people in the city are getting their news on TV, not in print.

Check out

How did they do it?


  • Javascript, Google Docs, Linux, API, Djano, Python, RSS, CSS, XHTML, Final Cut Pro, Ajax, HD video, Flash, etc.

“Agile Development”

  • Semantic, accessible and standards-driven
  • Separating content, logic and presentation
  • Software that fosters quick creation
  • Etc. (too many to type here)


They brought production, editorial and programming people together and do it all in-house. They showed a diagram to display how the 40-person team came together.

Production people almost never enter CMS — they create the apps for the content gathers to use.

They update the software everyday.

They aren’t tied to any old legacy programming technologies, such as ASP or PHP.

Advice for student news site

  • Evans: Look for open-source solutions, such as WordPress.

UPDATE (Sept. 13): Check out Mindy McAdams’ post about the sesssion.

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