Want to know the answer…ask a journalist

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be taking a rest from blogging.  Well, it’s getting close to term time again (I had that in my mind as a time to revist the blog) and with a bit of space behind me to clear my head I wanted to dip in – sorry.

What’s peaked my interest. Well, Ryan Sholin threw up an interesting link via twitter to a site called myreporter.com which recently picked up a Citizen Media Award in the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism

myreporter.com - award winning simple idea
myreporter.com - award winning simple idea

It’s a simple idea.

MyReporter.com provides a personal link between the journalist and the reader, allowing the reader to submit a question about life in southeastern North Carolina. Within a week, a StarNews journalist will provide an answer on www.MyReporter.com, where readers can find a wealth of information about historical places, famous people and oddities in the area.

Add to that the ability of people to comment, or add clarification and detail to answers and you can see how the vision that that Executive Editor Robyn Tomlin has that ” at some point this becomes a living encyclopedia of local information,”

Questionland - crap name but good idea?
Questionland - crap name but good idea?

Ryan also highlighted another one, wonderfully titled questionland from Seattle paper The Stranger.

What’s so great about that, you ask. Why not just put the question in to google? Surely that will get you the answer.

Well, yes, maybe it will. But in a world where people are time poor, local newspapers still have some brand to work with and Google’s inability t really do local search (not without some strong arming of search terms) this seems to me to really reflect the local newspaper being the ‘source of local information’.

It’s one example of the connection with the community local journalism is supposed to have and I think it would be fantastically easy to implement it on any local news site.  Myreporter.com is built on WordPress – easy to hack together – and questionland runs on a third party Q&A platform called yousaidit. But there are other sources.  Ryan Sholin points out that the source code for his nascent reporting back channel service ReportingOn (a knight news challnge winner) is available as open source.

I know that the first reason why a site like this wouldn’t happen on many UK papers is resources. Who answers the questions? But as something that falls between the crowdsourcsing of reporting and the often one way input of comments, this could be an interesting way for people to move questions and conversation out of the ghetto of forums and make it more accessible and obvious.

Have you come across any other sites that are doing this? Are you running a site just like this. I’d love to know.

3 thoughts on “Want to know the answer…ask a journalist”

  1. Andy,

    Thanks for mentioning Questionland. I’m the a co-founder of YouSaidIt, the company that powers Questionland, and let me just say that it has been a huge success thanks to the talented people at The Stranger.

    You wondered about getting questions answered: if you check out Questionland you’ll see that questions are answered almost immediately no matter how obscure they might be. And they are answered by the community – although the staff does also participate.

    The best example of staff participation is probably Paul Constant who will give book recommendations to all comers and he has an encyclopedic knowledge.

    Perhaps the key success has been that once the site was up-and-running it takes a mere hour or so a week of staff moderation and marketing to keep it going (this is commonly a big issue for resource strapped newspapers).

    Thanks for the mention. You can also check out ur FAQ 2.0 sites if you like, just go to YouSaidIt.

  2. Hello,

    I was wondering if a news paper can release my name and street address. I was arrested for public drunkenness but I have a pfa against someone and would be happy if they did not find my home.

  3. I recently acquired a job at a small community weekly. I’m their only staff reporter, so needless to say, they’re working me like a dog (I think). This is my first week and I have five stories assigned to me to get done before press on Sunday while also being responsible for design/layout. My question is, how many stories a week should a journalist be required to write on average?

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