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19:55

3 Ways to Expand the News Ecosystem

Spot.Us founder David Cohn has convened a virtual carnival: he's posing monthly questions that he'd like to see journalists take a stab at answering. The latest: how do we diversify the news ecosystem? He put it differently -- "Considering your unique circumstances, what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?" -- but I'm pretty sure the end goal is a greater diversity of information and expanded news ecosystem.

What can I do, personally? I can use my technical skills to make document-based investigative reporting a little easier and a little more transparent. But "you knew I was going to say that (because of the work I do for DocumentCloud.

1. Push for More Public Data

And every journalist and citizen can push for increased access to public information. That would, for example, making it possible for more New Yorkers to cover New York City. It doesn't take much to publish public data reliably, it just takes some political will.

2. Increase Collaboration

Another thing we can do is increase story collaboration. No one newsroom can ever reveal the complete picture. The full story become clear when many reporters come at an issue, each from their own unique perspective. If some of those reporters have gone to journalism school and have been mentored by a prize winning journalist and others are just calling it like they see it without even the benefit of a copy editor, more power to us all. (And if you imagine that the former never get a story outrageously wrong or that the latter are never downright spot-on, you haven't been paying attention.)

One reporter, working alone to cover the statehouse, is never going to get as much done as 10 reporters, each actively trying to sniff out a corruption case that hasn't already been discovered.

In the process, though, some journalists have developed a nasty habit of pretending they've got a scoop when, in fact, they're re-telling a story first uncovered by a neighborhood blog. One of my favorite hyper-local bloggers, who regularly reports on her precinct community meetings and other things nearly no other news outlet has the resources to cover, also keeps an unfortunate running tally of stories of hers that were picked up by the press without so much as a nod.

3. Share the Credit

Which brings me to my final point: Share the credit. It really is okay for journalists to look for local leads in neighborhood blogs. But when a reporter finds one, she should be sure to find a way to weave a tip-o-the-hat into her narration of the story.

Don't pretend you work in a vacuum. Giving credit is common courtesy. And it leaves your friendly local bloggers free to be incensed by horrendous construction gaffes and intransigent municipal bureaucracies instead of ticked off at you.

Journalists should strive to share their reporting and pool their technical skills and give one another the courtesy of due credit. Those simple steps would go a long way toward increasing the size, scope, and vitality of the news ecosystem.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl