The community-directed reporter: Daniel Victor gears up to go mojo

From Daniel Victor comes news that he’s working on a new job description, and a new reporting beat:

“If I can sell my editors on the concept, I would be the author and community manager of a new blog. My stated goal will be to have at least one originally reported story per day, usually some combination of text, photography and video. Sometimes it’ll be a three-minute video with 200-word text, sometimes it could be a great photo with 800-word text.

The stories I’m looking for are next-door slices of life that are usually the first to go because of shrinking staffs. A new museum exhibit, an innovative classroom project, a personality profile, a soup kitchen gearing up for a busy time, a little-known hiking trail, a new business opening, etc.

If you check this new blog every day, you will always learn about one new wrinkle in your community. That’s a wonderful promise for a news site to make.”

It’s difficult to measure all the things Daniel and his employers are about to do right, but here’s the short list:

  • Getting a reporter out of the newsroom and into the community to cover actual human beings.
  • Dedicating a reporter to the Web, free to post all day long without waiting for news meetings or multiple reads of a story to publish.
  • Letting the community directly decide what the reporter covers.

That last point is huge, and fun, and highly recommended.  I’m curious about how he’s going to do it.  I’d try Uservoice or something like it, although a simple comment thread with a voting plugin would probably do the job, right?

Whenever anyone asks me what I would do if I were re-organizing the staff at a medium-to-large daily, I talk a lot about this sort of beat:  A reporter who lives in the beat, geographically and/or topically, and meets readers head-on, not via phone lines or e-mail or letters to the editor, but shaking hands and having coffee and knowing what’s going on because s/he knows the people, not just what the city council says is going on.

Daniel’s been doing that sort of work already — check out the Beatblogging archives for more notes on how he’s done it in the recent past — but this sounds like a big step forward in how we think about beat reporting and letting the public act as the assignment editor.

So although this wasn’t an overnight change for this particular news organization, there’s still quite a bit of inspiration to it, as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of inspiration:

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