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Join the CPNN community call featuring ProPublica and Screendoor

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

For call-in details, join the CPNN mailing list here. Curious but can’t make the call? Sign up for Screendoor for free, or email me and I’ll help you get started.

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Building a nomination form with Screendoor

Recently, a client asked us how to build a “nomination form” inside of Screendoor. In this instance, the client was running a fellowship program and wanted to allow members of the public to nominate potential fellows. Nominees would receive an email informing them that they had been nominated, and asking them if they would like to apply.

We responded, detailing how this could easily be built by using our integration with Zapier. We liked this solution so much that we decided to share it with you, too.

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The Bright Future of Digital Government Services

Today I’m happy to announce our new mission statement:

We help governments deliver great digital services to the people who depend on them.

As a company, we have our roots in procurement. RFP-EZ, the precursor to Screendoor, was built during a Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) assignment to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The product provided both a forms solution and a workflow tool that allowed teams to evaluate bids. As Screendoor started to gain a foothold in the new GovTech marketplace beyond procurement, we observed two things:

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Crowdsourcing the news with Screendoor

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism recently published “A How-To Guide to Crowdsourcing,” featuring a case study of ProPublica’s groundbreaking strategies for targeted outreach. The report describes how the news organization uses Screendoor to solicit personal stories that become the foundation for many of its investigations.

In the process of collecting and analyzing thousands of personal contributions, unexpected stories emerge. This was the case with ProPublica’s Reliving Agent Orange investigation:

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Introducing Shortcuts for workflow automation

Behind every form is a unique workflow process. While some forms require a single approval, others go through multiple rounds of sign-offs. The greater the number of manual tasks involved, the greater the chance of human error.

Automating the steps in your workflow can reduce misunderstanding among your team, prevent responses from slipping through the cracks, and enable you to close the loop with both colleagues and respondents. Plus, it’ll save time spent carrying out tasks one by one.

Today we’re introducing Shortcuts, a new feature that brings workflow automation to Screendoor.

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