Birthdays at NPR

Today is the 30-year birthday of Morning Edition. Yesterday NPR's content management system turned 7. Thought some might find the histories interesting — that is my sole reason for posting this. ACS

MORNING EDITION HITS 30
This comes from Ellen McDonnell, executive director of news programming. She joined NPR the same year Morning Edition was started. Here's what she wrote:

"30 years ago Morning Edition was born. The earth didn't move. Robert Siegel did 8:30 a.m. from London for our A segment. Robert probably did 8:30 from London every day that first year!!!

Linda Wertheimer did a political preview. Robert Krulwich and Neal Conan helped fill the two hours, which included several weather reports. I started that day as a news writer for Carl Kasell, Jackie Judd, Mary Tillotson, and Pete Williams.

So much has happened to create the program that (M.E. executive producer) Madhulika Sikka brilliantly defines as your daily dose of "wonk and whimsy."

NPR Digital Media's Seamus Turns 7

Seamus ( the nickname for the CMS, or content management system) was born 7 years ago on Nov. 4. "In CMS years, that makes Seamus 560 years old," reports Dan Jacobson, who played a key role in Seamus' development.

Here is Jacobson's quick history of how Seamus came to be:

December 1999
Digital Media (then called NPR NewMedia) was largely a site of static HTML pages. The rundowns and music buttons were the only dynamic parts of the site and they were built using ColdFusion and SQL Server (all on one very taxed machine). This was also the month that I was hired as the first on-staff developer for NPR NewMedia.

June 2000
NPR NewMedia launches NewsEditor, the first very early version of what later becomes Seamus. This system handled news content and was designed to offer a local/national news page for NPR Member stations. NewsEditor was built in ATG Dynamo (Java-based technology) using an Informix database.

March 2002
Due to a series of events, we saw an opportunity to rebuild our two systems into a single, consolidated system. We put together a comprehensive set of documentation, designs, use cases, etc. for what we wanted this new converged CMS to be. This included some editors (some of whom are still in the department today). From this documentation, a small (very small) team of developers spent the next six months developing the CMS. The technologies of this first release included ATG Dynamo/Java, a lot of JavaScript and CSS and an Oracle database.

November 4, 2002
After a long 6-month development cycle, exactly seven years ago Nov. 4, this CMS launched and became the cornerstone of NPR NewMedia. Sure, there were a few hickups and stripped stories after the initial launch, but things stabilized relatively quickly and our new converged system was underway. This became the first real version of what would later be called Seamus. At this time, however, the new CMS was accurately called "CMS".

After this historic launch, we have extended Seamus to include things like Podcasts, the API, topics, personality bios, a full music site, a range of audio formats, station content, AP feeds, and more. We have also completely gutted the entire system more than once.

Today, Seamus is now built in Java/JSP with a MySQL database a far cry from the proprietary technologies from 2002. Surprisingly, we are still using some of the same JavaScript and CSS code from the initial launch - code that was largely built by me and Michael Yoch.

It wasn't until 2006 that I initiated a department-wide contest for the renaming of our CMS. We received dozens of submissions from the entire NPR Online staff (that is what it was called at the time). Of those submissions, the tech team voted on the names and boiled it down to two finalists. The winning entry (Seamus, obviously), submitted by our own Stephanie Oura, narrowly beat out "Cosmos", submitted by Todd Holzman, by a single vote.

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