Reinventing reporting and "crowd-sourcing" your stories

On May 23, 2010 by Colin

This chain of newspapers is boldly striking out into digital territory that no other legacy media has ventured in (switching to free online tools and more), but I’m eager to consider how our station can adopt this idea:

Telling the Stories

A cornerstone of the Ben Franklin Project is the inclusion of everyone in the process. While project observers helped fill the toolshed, our audiences helped fill the websites and printed pages.

The Ben Franklin Project opens the process and allows everyone to participate at whatever level they are comfortable. Adhering to Journal Register’s digital first mission, the Ben Franklin Project will empower the audience – through use of free web-based tools (the list of which is still being finalized) – to determine on what stories our reporting and editing staff should be focusing their efforts. The audience – the news consumer – will no longer simply be the end user. By transforming the process the traditional “end user” will be put at the beginning of the process when she helps shape the newsgathering and participates in the newsgathering.

And the audience wasted no time in participating. The Perkasie News-Herald invited readers to a town hall meeting — a mix of old-school outreach and the new-school crowdsourcing approach. The Q-and-A session of the meeting served as a news meeting where residents requested stories on the local electric rates and the community’s pay-as-you-throw trash collection system. Reporters and editors still did the work but they knew from the time story assignments were conceived that these stories matter to the audience.

The News-Herald in Lake County asked readers to help extend the newsroom’s reach by covering more turf than the reporting team could do alone. Editors, using Facebook, asked followers to help the staff build a list of the most dangerous intersections in the coverage area. By asking the audience to collaborate the staff was able to collect dozens of suggestions within the first few hours of the Facebook post. Reporters cross-referenced the submissions with data obtained from police. The same worked for a series of stories on blighted properties in the area. Readers were asked to report blighted properties and the reporters then investigated.

The crowdsourcing not only ensures the stories are relevant to the readership but also provides greater depth and breadth to the report as the community — collaborating with reporters and editors — can help extend the reach of the newsroom.

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