Notes, links, and recent entanglements

A bulleted list of things that have caught my eye over the past few days, or things I’ve been involved in, or things I’d like to be involved in…

OK, that’s five things. I’ll try to do this often-ish for those of you that don’t see me going on and on sharing links to this sort of thing every day on Twitter, Publish2, FriendFeed, or Google Reader.

New at IdeaLab: What’s new in ReportingOn 2.0 and what’s been left undone

Over at IdeaLab, I’ve got a post up that circles back to the first version of ReportingOn, my Knight News Challenge project.  In the post, I revisit some of the problems the 2.0 release was intended to solve, and I do a bit of scorekeeping on RO’s progress.

Here’s a bit from the post about one of the challenges I faced in building a backchannel for beat reporters to help each other out:

Twitter is faster than me

Right, so 140-character limits are long-gone in RO 2.0, and the straight question/answer session should (theoretically, at least) make for longer conversations with more depth to them. As has been pointed out more than a few times, Twitter is a good place to start an argument, but a really poor place to finish one. Although I’d hesitate to frame the sort of exploratory, qualitative Q&A that could happen on ReportingOn as “argument” or “debate,” I’d like to believe that highlighting a “good answer” as noted by the person who asked the question will help lead to a permanent archive for reporting resources in a way that Twitter simply doesn’t do.

To put a finer point on it, if I ask a question of my followers on Twitter and I get a great answer, I get it in a stream of replies that are useful to a certain subset of Twitter users at that moment, but fly right by in the stream and never come back unless I pull them out of the flow of Twitter and display them somewhere. At this particular moment in time, Twitter’s search functionality is highly ephemeral in nature, as it starts and stops indexing from time to time, and rarely dips back in the chronology as far as might be useful. So where the quick-answer utility of Twitter stops, the long-term archive of ReportingOn begins.

There are four or five more points of navel-gazing analysis like that over in the post, which I hope you’ll check out.  If nothing else, they should provide a useful roadmap for the next person who tries to build something similar.

Meanwhile, the crew at BeatBlogging interviewed me recently — you can listen in as I answer some questions about ReportingOn 2.0, the launch, development, and what happens next.  The audio file is at the end of that post, or you can hear it in iTunes.

Why We Link: Your answers to why news organizations should tie the Web together

Last week, I asked for some on tips on why news organizations should link to external sources.

I wanted your best reasons, and you happily provided them.  Six of you answered via the Publish Tip Form I embedded in that blog post, and seven of you replied on Twitter.

You can find my favorite answers in this guest post published yesterday at

Here’s an excerpt:

4. Because we absolutely do not know everything, but we know where to find out most of what we don’t know.

The days of your news organization existing as a monopolistic source of local information are over, and your readers know it. They browse local, national, international, and topical news and commentary in more places than you call “news.” And if they don’t, they hear it from their friends on any one of a dozen social networks. They know that you don’t know it all. And so do you.

But you’re the journalist.

You’re the filter. You’re the person in town who knows everyone who knows everyone. You’ve got the sources, whether they’re people you talk to at the community center, the city council meeting, the police station, or their Live Journal page. Bring what they know to your readers as directly as possible: Link to them.

Lots more where that came from

…and check out the conversation on Twitter about the post.  It’s mostly RTs, but in that mix you’ll find some great journalists to follow.

Awesome Bonus Link: Wilmington StarNews Editor Robyn Tomlin steps up to answer her colleagues who might think of linking to your rivals as some sort of “journalistic blasphemy.”

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:

A podcast in which I discuss the merits and limits of Ning with Pat Thornton

I spent 20 minutes or so talking about Wired Journalists and Ning with Pat Thornton last week for a podcast.

Here are some highlights from Pat’s list of questions:

  • Would you choose Ning again if you could start over?
  • How specific should a topic be for a Ning site to be specific?
  • How many users are needed for a quality Ning network?
  • How do you get the most out of Ning?
  • What tips or tricks do you have for people interested in setting up a network?

I hope I did a relatively decent job of answering those, or at the very least, explaining the easiest way to find the answers to those questions.

You’ll hear mentions of a few Ning-powered social networks at newspapers, including Your Santa Cruz Sports and School Matters (in Knoxville, TN).

What don’t we know about news organizations using Ning?  Say so in the comments at welcomes

After a round-robin series of conversations between Jay Rosen, David Cohn, Pat Thornton, and myself along with Howard Owens and Zac Echola, I’m happy to announce that and are joining forces to bring attention to the unsung beat reporters gathering their sources around the bonfire of a blog to better fulfill the mission of figuring out just how much more than us our sources know.

My, that’s a mouthful.

Here’s the deal:

  • There’s a new box on the Wired Journalists home page with the latest posts from the BeatBlogging blog, along with a call to action to let Pat Thornton know if you’re an unsung beatblogger.  Pat’s the new editor at BeatBlogging, taking over for David Cohn, who moves on to doing something else impressive with his Knight News Challenge grant at Spot.Us.
  • The growing (2100+) group at Wired Journalists is a huge pool of people doing innovative work, an increasingly international bunch, and really, is full of reporters that the mainstream media blogosphere (MMB?) hasn’t heard of.  We want to know more about you.
  • The best way to get some love for the work you’re doing and share your successes and failures with the community is to get in touch with Pat.  Contact him at Wired Journalists or hit up his personal contact page.

What’s next?

We’ve heard a few proposals from folks interested in connecting with the 2100+ members of Wired Journalists, and it’s getting interesting.  Hopefully, we’ll have more announcements like this in the not-too-distant future.

2000 strong at Wired Journalists

So many milestones this week…

Here’s another one:  Wired Journalists now has more than 2000 members.

The Ning-powered social network that Howard Owens, Zac Echola, and I created back in January has exceeded our expectations, in terms of numbers, interaction, community, and the learning/teaching that’s going on there.

Plus, it’s really bringing some people out of the woodwork.

I’m talking about beatbloggers like Matt Neznanski and Web staff from smaller papers, like Carlos Virgen from Walla-Walla.

Jay Rosen has been talking about using Wired Journalists as a pool of talent to find reporters and editors and bloggers like Matt and Carlos as they bubble up to the surface of the network, and I’m excited about the possibilities.

We created Wired Journalists to connect the non-wired with the wired, to give everyone a place to speak freely about online news and experimentation on the Web, as it’s happening in newsrooms around the world.

I think what we’ve learned, in the first 120 days and 2000 members, is that not only are there thousands of journalists out there ready to improve their craft and expand their skillset, but that journalism is alive and well around the world, in all demographic groups.

In recent days, I’ve seen members at Wired Journalists from Iran, I’ve seen a French version of the network, I’ve seen high school journalism students join the network to extend their education, and I’ve seen entire television news staffs join up over the course of a day or two. (What’s up, Topeka?)

So, thank you.

Thank you for answering the call to join Wired Journalists and thank you for helping each other learn about what’s next for journalism.