I don’t care what journalists are reading; I care what they’re writing

Scott Karp and friends (and those are some pretty smart friends) are up to something interesting, but I sure as heck can’t tell what it is based on a rambling post at the new publish2.com.

It sounds like something that’s supposed to clean up all the doubling and overlapping of social networks the media blogger scene is enmeshed in at the current moment.

Whatever it is that Scott’s up to, while I was trying to figure it out, an idea popped into my head. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, because I feel like I heard this idea passed through the filter of something like New Assignment at some point:

I want to know what journalists are writing.

Right, right, I know, I can scan Google News and read the papers and all that, but what I mean is I want to see trends develop on a large scale across the country (and yes, world) by tracking what stories journalists are working on.

And then I want the people formerly known as the audience to have a space to vote for what they wish journalists were working on.

Picture it as a mashup of Twitter and Digg, where reporters are constantly answering the question “What are you working on?” in a broad way so as not to tip off their competition — or editors. 😉

For example, I might post something like “Organic certification” without much detail about who I was pulling FOIAs on and what hunches I had about what I would find.

The algorithm (which someone else would program, eh?) would find common terms in other journalists’ posts and move topics up the list on the homepage a la Digg based on the number of reporters working on a topic:

::::::23 journalists are working on stories about organic certification.::::::

With space for comments, folks to add links, reporters to talk to each other about past stories, non-reporters to add information, etc. Suddenly there’s a thread of conversation built up for everyone working on a given topic to play with.

On the other half of the homepage, everyone answers a question like “What’s missing from your news?” to basically request coverage on a certain topic or issue.

And yes, users vote topics up and down the page, add comments and links and conversation a la Digg.

Fact is, there are a million little aggregators out there for the news that already exists, to filter information and bring the good/important/weird/salient stuff to the surface.

I don’t need another filter — I need a sounding board and a request line.

If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pursue this a little further down the line, or maybe you’ll just point me to the place where this already exists. Either way, I think it’s an idea worth chasing down — even if it were just internally at a newspaper company.

How would that be – a network of news organizations full of journalists that actually talk to each other! Ha!

Published by Ryan Sholin

I'm that guy you know from the Internet.

14 replies on “I don’t care what journalists are reading; I care what they’re writing”

  1. Ryan
    It’s an idea I’ve seen floating around here and there and it has been tossed around as a means for NewAssignment.Net to weed out future topics to cover.

    Len Witt from PJNet.org had a catchy name for it which escapes me at the moment. But the idea is solid — if we are supposed to cover the news that is important to readers, and readers are no longer a passive audience, why not tap them to find out what the important issues are. You can even create a business model out of it: Vote with your dollars to fund the journalist — if you raise X amount of dollars, cover the story. If you don’t, the money is returned to the investors.

  2. That’s an amazing idea. As soon as anyone finds out I’m a journalist, they start with the “I wish the papers would print more about…” tirade.

  3. @Zac – Good point – I’m familiar with the iA wikiPost concept.

    I’m not really thinking of this as a one-newspaper deal.

    This would be an application for journalists all over the world to post the answer to ‘What are you working on?’ — Much closer to a social network for reporters than a pro-am deal.

    The role of readers is to shout out suggestions – the collective intelligence of the amateurs will obviously point the pros in a direction.

    I’ve got a pretty clear picture in my head. I’ll mockup something and post it when I have time.

  4. This reminds me of the next generation of listservs, like the IRE, or the CJJ or Newspaper Video lists which I read every day. Only they would be public, open to where people can view them and critique them. A MySpace for journalists with working bulletins and a comments section. Where do I sign up?

  5. I only used it for a little bit, so I could be mistaken, but I recall that Public Square HQ site as having a feature in which regular users could suggest new story ideas and whatnot and those suggestions could then be voted on and an editor could decide to assign that story to a writer on the back end.

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