It’s an exciting time if you’re in charge of community engagement in a newsroom. Technology has made it easier to ask readers to contribute to your reporting. But with all the new tools and platforms out there, you might be wondering: what’s the best way to get started?
After deciding on the questions you want to ask, you’ll want to start by learning more about the types of sources you’re looking for. Where do they hang out online? If you show up where they already are, you’ll have a better response rate. Once you know what you want to ask and where to ask it, it’s time to issue a call-out to your audience.
As responses roll in, you’ll need to keep them organized as you develop your story. You’ll also need to devise a workflow for following up with your respondents, verifying their information, and keeping track of who you’ve already contacted. That’s where Screendoor comes in.
With Screendoor, reporters and editors can collect stories, photos, and other documents, organize them easily, collaborate with each other, and correspond with contributors.
Screendoor in the newsroom
We’ve been impressed with the spirit of experimentation which news organizations have brought to their use of Screendoor. Here are a few examples:
By collecting and analyzing over a thousand stories from people who have been harmed in a medical facility, ProPublica investigated the lack of transparency around patient safety. The resulting interactive story, “The Voices of Patient Harm,” employs the Screendoor API to highlight select stories in the form of quotations. A geographic filter offers readers a local perspective on the data, encouraging them to explore patient stories from their own state.
Many of the patients who shared their stories gave their permission for a reporter to contact them. This gave ProPublica an opportunity to extend the scope and depth of their investigation, by matching these sources with journalists from other organizations.
Other newsrooms have used Screendoor to gather stories in the immediate aftermath of an event. Following the San Bernadino shooting, the Los Angeles Times collected memories of the victims. Now, they’re asking Porter Ranch residents how the nearby Aliso Canyon gas leak has affected their lives.
Crowdsourcing together with CPNN
If you want to experiment with crowdsourcing but don’t know where to start, ProPublica’s Crowd-Powered News Network (CPNN) can help. It’s a group of over 150 reporters and editors who want to engage their readers as collaborators. In addition to a vibrant mailing list, CPNN holds monthly community calls as a chance for members to check in with each other, announce new projects, and share best practices.
The second call takes place tomorrow. Amanda Zamora and Terry Parris Jr. of ProPublica will run through their crowdsourcing workflow, and I’ll be on hand to demonstrate how you can set up automated workflows with Screendoor. I encourage you to join us!
What: CPNN Community Call #2 — “The Way We Work(flow)”
When: Thursday, Feb. 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm EST