The Rise of Hands-On Journalism

Digital journalism has made possible some incredible storytelling in recent years. Visually stunning reports on issues as diverse as gun violence, environmental disasters, and surveillance have brought stories to life on the screen. Increasingly, however, journalists are experimenting with innovations that move journalism off the screen and into people’s hands.

This spring RadioLab did a story about an ancient skull and the questions it helped answer about the origins of human history. It is a fascinating story, but it revolved around minute details scientists discovered in the skull, details a radio audience couldn’t see. So the RadioLab team took a scan of the skull, printed it out with a 3D printer, and made the scan available online for others to print out. So, now you could hypothetically feel the groves and markings on the skull as the scientists discuss them, discovering new facets of the skull alongside the narrators.

I am fascinated by the potential for these sorts of journalism-objects to help engage communities around stories and foster empathy with audiences. So I began collecting examples of what I call, “hands on journalism.” Continue reading

Two Tools to Help You Plan Your Next News Event

The American Press Institute just published a terrific report with lessons from nearly 20 news organizations who are building their event strategy. If your newsroom is interested in face-to-face community engagement and exploring events as a new revenue stream, the report is a must read.

The report is organized around 6 key lessons:

  1. Use assets you already have
  2. Leverage existing audiences and grow new ones.
  3. Identify and hold off competition.
  4. Take creative approaches.
  5. Weigh the value of different pricing strategies.
  6. Go all-in with promotions.

But, if the report could be summed up in one line, it might be: “Plan early and plan often.” To that end, the American Press Institute also created a two page worksheet designed to guide newsrooms through a set of key strategic planning decisions and considerations. It is a useful resource, and you can download a copy of it here. Continue reading

The Eight Categories of Journalism Events

When you see something working for one news organization, it is tempting to want to replicate that in your own newsroom. But if you duplicate a model wholesale you risk trying something that is not a fit for your organization or your community.

There has been a lot of attention paid to how journalists are using events to diversify their revenue streams and engage their communities. But events are not one-size-fits all, and in fact when we drill down and look at how different newsrooms are implementing event strategies we see that the most successful events are ones that are uniquely positioned to leverage newsroom strengths and meet community needs.

In fact, looking at the field of news events, there is an astounding diversity of models to explore ranging from serious political debates to social meet-ups. Below I have attempted to break down news events into eight categories, with examples of each. This is part of a larger project to surface best practices and create templates for local newsrooms to use in their planning and development of their own event strategy.

For more background see my earlier list of 17 lessons for successful news events and the slides embedded at the bottom of this post. Continue reading

17 Lessons for Local News Events

Journalism has long brought us together through shared rituals – reading the morning paper, watching the evening news – but as people find the news on more platforms, on their own schedules, those rituals have diminished in importance. What hasn’t changed, however, is the potential role of local news organizations to build community around the news. And increasingly, newsrooms are experimenting with events as a way of convening people, engaging their communities and facilitating critical local conversations.

It is starting to pay off:

Some of the most notable events are coming from organizations covering major metropolitan areas or whole states, so how does an event strategy scale down to the very local level? If your organization wants to develop an event strategy, here are some of the key lessons from newsrooms who have made it work. Continue reading