No really, listen to your readers

Jeff Jarvis runs down another list of advisements to local news organizations trying to stay relevant online.

“7. Start a Digg edition. Go ahead and make your front page. But allow readers to tell you what they think is most important on their front page and let that guide your resource and news judgments.”

I like that one. Whatever the new NYTimes.com’s “My Times” is going to be is one option, although then you’re just seeing what you want to see instead of what everyone want to see. Another flavor is the branded aggregator, of the sort that Newsweek/Newsgator rolled out recently. The Guardian’s got one of their own, and anyone could really do it, but that’s not what #7 on Jeff’s list is after.

A Diggified newspaper site would need a commenting system, and everyone who clicked on “Your Mercury News” (just using the Merc for example’s sake…) would see the same dynamic page, the numbers of recommendations of each story, and could click through to read the story and comments. Not that difficult, really.

Some of Jeff’s other suggestions aren’t on my own top 10 list, like letting readers vote on what a reporter should cover (one story at a time could fly, but not beat by beat), or holding Meetups. I’m not sure we really want reporters physically interacting with readers in quite that direct a way. For all the flamewargarbage one finds online, it sure does feel like a safer way to talk to the public than handshakes and pretzels. Maybe this depends on the setting — I think this could work as an event hosted by the news org for the public to talk to each other and the editors, but it’s too easy for this to become an Us vs. Them disaster.

Blogging the news meeting makes sense to me, but asking the public which beats to eliminate when layoffs roll around is going to leave some readers feeling cheated – whoever doesn’t get what they want isn’t going to take it out on their fellow readers; they’ll take it out on management.

SO, readers: How much “listening” is too much? Is providing readers with their own space to choose-the-news-they-use enough, or should there be a virtual reader in the room when all the big decisions are made?