Marymont explained how the paper started with a handful of mojos, mobile journalists, and now it has 52 reporters who are mobile.
What this means is that say, the baseball reporter, sits in the stadium and blogs about the team’s practise from there, coming into the office only to write a story for the paper. The mojo kits include a laptop (half of them PCs, half Macs), an audio recorder and a wireless card, costing $2,500. The paper has a further 10 video kits, which cost from $8,000 to $10,000.
Marymont explained that the kits have enabled the reporters to spend more time out of the office and in the community, strengthing links with the audience.
The other concept that The News-Press is trying out is crowdsourcing as a way of doing watchdog journalism online.
Marymont related how the paper was interested in a utility project in Cape Coral. So it put a call out to residents, asking for information about what was happening in their streets.
Within 12 hours, 68 residents had sent in stories, documents and questions, The breakthrough came within 24, when a reader sent in a copy of a highly critical but unpublished city audit of the project. Marymont said the credibility of the source and the reaction of local officials to calls about the report led the website to go with the story ahead of the paper. The result: the project was put on hold pending an investigation, leading to a follow-up story in the next day’s paper.
The lessons from the experience:
- When you invite the public in, you get great information which becomes an untidy mess very quickly. Marymont talked about how editors are used to be in control but a story develops online in a different way to print
- There was some staff resistance. Journalists argued this wasn’t part of their job or that it would hurt the paper’s credibity. But Marymont said she had found less resistant than at other times as journalists realised they need to change
- You have to explain yourself to your readers, clearly labelling content
- Someone has to own it. Marymont said someone in the newsroom has champion crowdsourcing
In her view, readers want to participate and editors should open the door.