Posted by: structureofnews | March 9, 2011

Publishing Without Perishing

An interesting post at Nieman Journalism Labs about an initiative by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International, and Global Integrity to keep reporting on state-level corruption around the US alive.

The goal is to keep the reporting, and an index of corruption risk, going continuously, rather than simply publishing and forgetting about it. It’s another example in the growing – slowly, but growing – understanding that we need to get beyond the publish-and-go-home mentality in newsrooms.

The logic is pretty simple: We don’t invest enough effort into ensuring that what we do has any real shelf-life.  And we need to, not only because it extends the reach of our good work, but also because it speaks to the way people access information these days.  Not to mention the simple economics of not throwing away months of work after publication.

The lifespan of investigative reporting, at least as it’s typically done through newspapers, can be disappointingly short given the painful labor and birthing process. Once stories are released, the hope is the public (or perhaps lawmakers) will pick up the torch to right the wrongs illuminated by reporters. But the drumbeat stops after a while.

So they’re not only going to hire reporters locally to compile information, but also build a crowdsourcing structure to get more people involved and keep the project rolling along.  And, rather than just publish and forget it, they’ve developed a strategy to keep the public engaged and involved.

“We have the tools now for people to get engaged in stories as they go along and that creates a lasting commitment so its not a one-shot deal,” said Michael Skoler, vice president of Interactive Media for PRI.

PRI will work with its more than 800 partner stations to find expertise and build interest in the project over the next twelve months so that ideally, when the report is produced, there will be a built-in audience who can share it with others or try to minimize corruption in their state.

Will it work?   Only one way to find out.  And regardless of whether it does or not, simply going through the process of thinking how to keep a project alive is a good one – and one that more news organizations need to build into their metabolism.


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