MG: I like all that. But I think those examples undersell your point a bit. Because you’re talking about stuff that, though perhaps in a fairly inchoate, or scattered, way, already exists. You’re talking, basically, about crowdsourcing in a distilled form. Or, more particularly, about pro-am journalism: citizens or amateur journos or whatever providing something, and professional journos converting that something into ‘journalism.’ I know that’s a tad reductive—what you’re talking about would be more systemic, I know—but that’s the gist of it, right? One problem with it, though, is—sorry to be a broken record, but—logistics. Given the alarmingly few reportorial resources most news orgs—in this case, the Trib—have right now, I’d think it’d be pretty inefficient to follow every lead generated the kind of system you’re talking about. In an ideal world, sure, reporters could follow up on every tip, and edit every submission they receive from an amateur journo, etc. I just don’t know if it’s feasible. Right now, anyway.
JP: Sure, that photo thing was just an of-the-moment idea. But I’ll defend it briefly. I see something like that as a way of systemically engaging readers in a manner that serves both their priorities as community members and your priorities as a news organization. First, it gives them a reason to come back to your site, and it positions your organization as something that is quite directly interested in the specifics of the community that it serves. And in using technology to serve it and connect with it better.
MG: Sure. Investment, in every sense.
JP: Reporting, at its base, is pretty much about documenting things that happen. Something like this photo thing helps advance that principle. If I upload a photo of construction at my building, I’m documenting something that is important to me, and perhaps only to me. But the fact that I can contextualize it in some wider matrix of stuff that’s going on elsewhere—under the ChiTrib imprimatur—I think is sort of exciting. It makes me feel like I’m part of something. Part of an effort to capture how my neighborhood and my city really are.
Now, you’re right, logistically it’s stupid to think that reporters would go out and write about every single photograph. But, shit, might this not be an interesting way to rethink the Metro beat? To connect your reporting quite directly—and quite visibly—with your community and your readership?
MG: So, really, what you’re imagining is more like a living database, sourced and manipulated—in the best sense—by the community.
JP: Yes. Exactly. And, again, this is something I just thought up right now. So it’s probably got a hundred problems. But this is completely doable.
MG: So you’re making the Trib into its own sort of—to use the cliche of the moment—media ecosystem. What I’m imagining is almost a Wikipedia of current events in a community: crowdsourced, but moderated.
JP: Yeah, exactly. That’s a decent way to think about it.
Say that I post that photo of my building, and I include some basic information about who lives there, the construction company, etc. I will be elated if someone who is actually good at reporting and writing goes out and writes an article about this—or takes more photos, or investigates, or something like that.
I will print that article out and put it on my refrigerator. I will feel invested in the health of this ecosystem.