I gave someone a bit more detail about my nascent ReportingOn concept via e-mail late last night. Talking these things out in public always helps, so here’s a fresh draft of what I’ve been mumbling about:
In short, ReportingOn.com would be a social network for reporters looking for others on the same beat (in different towns).
Make it easy for everyone reporting on “sea lions” to find each other, perhaps as part of a larger group of people reporting on “science.”
It’s one thing for a reporter to subscribe to a listserv for environmental reporters; it’s quite another thing to be a reporter writing a story on a surge in sea lion deaths in Monterey Bay (I’m making this up – the windows are open and I can hear the sea lions 1+ miles away), and to quickly find a list of other journalists working on sea lion stories.
I’m at a point where I’m starting to learn Drupal, building a gray box mockup of the site, and sketching out what the relationships would ideally look like in the database. One of the next steps is getting a clear idea of how to use the functionality built into Drupal and its modules to surface the data the way I want to.
I briefly considered using this project as a focal point to learn Django around, but that just doesn’t seem to be the correct hammer for the job. I’ll get to Django eventually, I promise.
Before twelve people flame me talking about how this has nothing to do with networked journalism or citizen journalism and it just reinforces the barriers between professional journalists and people who don’t get paid to observe the world around them, rest assured that there is a second column to the idea, as I see it in my head, in which ‘readers’ can vote for the topics and categories they want to read more about.
Should there be groups just for readers, or should they be integrated into the Reporter groups?
The latter, I think. But I’m trying to keep this pretty lean: A social network for beat reporters. A backchannel for your beat.
A stream of short updates that answer the question “What are you reporting on?” leads to longer discussions about issues, sources, and beats.
There’s a Facebook group where you can start answering that question.