Thursday, April 21, 2011

SeeClickFix Journalism (JRC ideaLab Project)

It's been one year since Journal Register Company (New Haven Register's parent company) launched a partnership with SeeClickFix. Since then, there has been one itty bitty thing that's really nagged me about it. It's an excellent community tool that is under-utilized by most communities. At least in terms of what it is capable of.

But maybe that's our fault -- the local news organizations. It sits on many websites now (like the Register) as a widget, but that's not enough. News organizations have the same responsibility to it that residents do -- it's only useful to the community if we actually use it. Knowing it exists does nothing.
What is it, exactly? Per Wikipedia:
SeeClickFix is a web tool that allows citizens to report non-emergency neighborhood issues, which are communicated to local government, as a form of community activism.
It creates a hard line between real people who want to get things done and the people who are responsible for getting those things done. It's an accountability machine. And when that hardline can't be established, a news organization can step in to help forge that hard line (with a headline).
And so, that's what the Journal Register Company ideaLab project I've been working on is: Experimenting with ways to Increase SeeClickFix user engagement, and users, by integrating SeeClickFix into the news flow. And by demonstrating it in a way that any newsroom in the world can replicate.

Granted, the Register newsroom is already ahead of the ball in terms of using SeeClickFix to generate stories, with or without me. What I'm doing is measuring what that work is worth, and helping steer the reporters and editors to better (and best) practices and helping them incorporate it into their workflow, so that it's not 'another thing they have to worry about or make time for'.

How do I mean to do that? Well like I said - it's not a website. It's a tool, and a social media platform. I'm going to demonstrate how reporters can use it, how editors can use it.. but most importantly, how the community can use their local newspaper to get even more effective use out of SeeClickFix.

That's not to say The Register doesn't already use it, or that other community news organizations across Journal Register Company and around the world haven't used it beyond it's widget. So let's start with that.

Send me your links to the best uses you've seen of SeeClickFix from news organizations. Leave 'em in the comments or email to me at My next post on Monday will be a list to some of the best ways it's already been used.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WIKITORIAL EXPERIMENT: How can newspapers make editorials engaging again in the digital age?

Have you ever disagreed with a New Haven Register editorial? Have you ever wished you could rewrite it?

Well the New Haven Register editorial department is dusting off an experiment already attempted by other newspapers in the past that allows readers to 'wiki' (or edit and rewrite) our editorial stance on a subject. We want to hit where they've missed.

The practice alone raises a number of questions, especially amongst those in the newsroom. Does it devalue our original editorial? Does it dirty our editorial voice? Can it strengthen it? Does it do nothing but invite trouble and vulgarity? Are there some things we should and shouldn't open to be 'wikified'?

The soul of the idea is involving the community in what we do. The blood in the idea is we want to make our readers' voices louder. We want the words on our pages to be a constructive community dialogue -- not a speech.

Maybe it's crossing the line? Maybe we need a singular voice? Maybe it needs some work in practice to be more practical. Maybe this kind of idea is more applicable in other parts of what we do than the editorial. But we should experiment with this medium and ask these questions before ruling them out.

And then there's the question of whether our readers in the community even understand what a 'wiki' is. Or if they care? Maybe it's a 'neat' concept -- but what does it accomplish? Should it accomplish anything?

For now, we're just planting the seed and putting some water on it. We will fix it and nurture it as we need to. Jeff Jarvis (of the Journal Register Company Advisory Board) has written plenty to make this concept more constructive and appealing. I like what he has to say.

Read what this project's leader Jordan Fenster has to say about this idea.

I'd really like to gather some thoughts from the media community and our local readers about why this works or doesn't work.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

SOUNDOFF UPGRADE: Check out our first Soundoff Live Chat tomorrow

Print readers of the New Haven Register know what SOUNDOFF is. In fact, it's probably one of our most consistently read features in the paper.

Basically, we ask a topical question in the paper and readers call in with their comments on the topic, and we run a selection of those comments in the following day's paper.

But the problem is, we're just giving you a little space to vent, to holler, and to praise. And we mold the results into something interesting for our readers. But is it engaging? Is there a real payoff for those sounding off? Are prayers answered? Are your questions being directed to the right people?

With these questions in mind, we decided it's time for an upgrade to Soundoff.

We are expanding the Soundoff idea to include a regular feature where we flip the tables around. Instead of asking our readers to call us and tell us what they think, we're going out into the community and bringing along a guest for you to direct your questions at. We want this to be an engaging and interactive community experience. We want your questions to be answered. It's like a Town Hall meeting -- but those who can't attend, can watch online and submit questions from their computer too. We want everyone to have the opportunity to be able to participate.

But don't worry Soundoff lovers, the original print column remains intact. This is just another way for us to turn up the volume on those wanting to make some noise in their community. Soundoff right here on my blog what you think about this.

Check out all the details here.

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