Just the FAQs, please

Jeff Jarvis on the Local Challenge:

“The biggest challenge facing local news organizations today is figuring out how they can gather more and produce less. That is, how can they help other people produce, so the news organizations have something worth gathering?”

Gather more and produce less, indeed. It’s hard for lifelong newsroom types to see layoffs one day and reader participation initiatives the next and not feel a bit slighted. But we’re not just talking about event calendars and little league reports here, although I love ’em, we’re talking about your newspaper as the platform for local information and interaction.

So it’s not just “send us your events and we’ll shovel them where they belong,” it’s “post your own events on your calendar which other users can add to their calendar, and tag your event with a number of useful categories that will help others find it.” Then let readers add their write-up of the event, and photos, and video.

This isn’t new, and it’s obvious enough. Apply that model to any information you want the community to have: Reviews of local businesses, parking lot maps or detailed notes on bus routes. (Did you know that if you’re quick about it, you can snag some free wi-fi access at one of the Scotts Valley stops on the Highway 17 Express Bus? It makes for a good moment to refresh your RSS reader.)

And a thousand other things. What are the frequently asked questions in your community? Answer those questions, and write a FAQ for your newspaper site that answers them with articles from your archives, links to all those maps and databases you’ve created, and aggregate local blogs that answer some of the same questions. Your reporters are resources here, as gatherers of information and mainlines to the institutional memory you’ll need when you try to answer these questions.

Jarvis goes on to say that one platform might not be able to handle all the hyperlocal information your town needs. I disagree. I think your newspaper can, should, and will be the information aggregator for your community. If that’s not our function, then what is?

3 thoughts on “Just the FAQs, please”

  1. It’s an amazing question. Not only, why hasn’t any newspaper done this(?), I’ve never even seen them approach this.

    My guess is that it’s a slippery slope for them. As soon as they prove to themselves that a new model will work, they have to switch. It is probably much easier just to stay in the fetal position.


  2. As a lifelong journalist (31 years) this has all been very difficult for me to come to grips with. But “information aggregator” absolutely is a role newspapers should play, as long as “government watchdog” and “advocate for the disenfranchised” don’t get lost in the new-wave shuffle. However, it’s difficult for me to see a Dean Singleton-owned company being on the vanguard of anything except trying to cut its way to prosperity.


  3. John – I do my best to not pay attention to the signature on my paycheck. I’m pretty much free to try out innovations as I please, for now. My biggest limitation is my own time.


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