Newpapers Need the Crowd Too

March 9, 2011 By Aminda

The age of the paper newspaper may be declining but a positive new door has opened in the field of journalism. News media outlooks probably wouldn’t be considered to have been quick to integrate crowdsourcing. After all, reliable, well-researched, thoughtfully writing reporting doesn’t lend itself to being bid on for the lowest price from an anonymous crowd. But news outlets around the world have found ways to integrate the crowd without compromising the reliability of their work. Here are a few examples.

Data Dump

UK newspaper, The Guardian, developed a collaborative project to investigate MPs’ expenses. The site allows users to review public records and flag items that need further attention. The project has seen more than 27,000 people review over 220,000 pages of documentation. The crowd is digging out stories in a way in which The Guardian editorial team would not possibly have the resources to do.

Expert Access

An article from a U.S.-based newspaper industry journal discusses how more and more newspapers are utilizing companies such as Public Insight Network, a grant-funded, fee-based organization or Help a Reporter Out (HARO), an advertising-based group, that will crowdsource to connect reporters to sources. For example, a reporter working on a story about how state budget cuts affect schools, could send out a request to tens of thousands of subscribers, such as a 20-year veteran teacher who could be asked questions that are highly relevant to the situation. It’s an efficient way for reporters, who don’t always have the time to cover all their bases, to probe deeply.

Looking for Leads

Journalists must be ever vigilant in seeking the latest, breaking news. Fortunately, there are plenty of amateur sleuths amongst us and sites like Help Me Investigate provide fodder for plenty of potential story ideas. The site even guides users through a successful investigation, explaining that it’s best kept to a small, diverse group of active participants where tasks are divided into small parts and results posted along the way to sustain momentum.

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