Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The readers return fire on partnering on stories

It did not take long for the reaction to start rolling in yesterday to my print column.

In it I explained why we are now posting our daily story budget online, basically the stories we are working on each day, and our hope that the public can help us in terms of delivering more complete stories. In short, better journalism.

The first comment posted to the website was predictable. It echoed a sentiment that is fired back at us every time we indicate we are opening up the doors to our journalism and partnering with the public.

“Translation: Give us free labor,” was one reader’s response to my pitch.

He was not alone. He also was not correct.

First and foremost, he’s wrong about the free labor. In almost every instance, the truth is we have already committed time and manpower to look into a story. We aren’t asking the public to do our job. We are, however, always trying to fill the holes that appear in many stories. The truth is we don’t have all the answers, and we very often don’t have every detail that could prove crucial to every story.

We’re wondering if the public does. And that is why we’re asking them to contact the reporters working on a specific story if they have information pertinent to that story. Maybe they witnessed an event. Maybe they have a photo or a video clip.

In addition, there is always the possibility that people do have key information on something we’re working on, but have no idea we were working on a story  until they see it in print or online. At that point it’s too late. That story would have been more complete if we had been able to vet and include the information from the reader.

But thanks for offering the comment, and I urge other readers to do the same.

That’s a big part of the change that is shaking journalism to its roots.

For decades we talked at our readers. We wrote, they read.

Now we want to talk with them. We want them to partner with us on stories.

I believe the result will be better, more complete, more compelling journalism.

Not everyone agrees.

How about you? Why not join the conversation!


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