Journalists tell us that they want to bring a diverse range of voices to their stories in 2017. Even with few resources, reporters can create effective, audience-centered journalism that will entice new users, engage loyal readers, and possibly earn an award or two.
How? For inspiration, look to some of our favorite stories from 2016.
1) Approach existing communities
That’s what ProPublica has been doing around a number of issues. Their Agent Orange work started in 2015. Instead of relying on advocacy groups to supply one or two people to interview, their database of Americans affected by Agent Orange reached 6,000 people in 2016. They achieved this through patience, respect, and meeting the communities where they were, as well as bringing them into the reporting.
2) Leave the office and visit community groups
City Bureau has done this — and empowered members to help with their work.
3) Work with independent artists
Air Media collaborated with filmmakers around the country to tell stories across a common theme for their beautiful Finding America series.
4) Partner your top opinion columnists with top community members
The result could be a discussion or a refreshing series of head-to-head op-eds. That’s what The Financial Times did this year, to remarkable effect.
5) Allow private submissions
Reach out using tools that protect people’s privacy — such as our Ask tool — to collect sensitive stories about issues your readers care about. The Guardian worked with users to discuss mental health; The Marshall Project connected with victims of crime.
6) Create private channels for group conversations
The Washington Post’s Pay Up community on Slack connects Post reporters with interested readers to discuss pay disparities around gender.
7) Form a community board
A group of loyal readers could meet regularly to help suggest topics to make you accountable for the quality of your reporting. That’s what NHPR has done.
8) Invite readers to help with your work
Medium’s Ghost Boat did this, and received contributions from more than 75,000 readers.
9) Train your audience to collect stories for you
That’s what WYSO does thorough community training courses and collaborative editing sessions.
10) Use an existing open conversation space to host a conversation
The Marshall Project worked with Digg to host reader interactions, including one around its juvenile justice reporting.
11) Encourage your audience to interact in meaningful ways
You could ask a set of experts, as The New York Times did, to create questions for readers to ask each other during these divided times. (The Times also recorded three such conversations for its podcast The Run-Up.)
12) Ask the audience to hit record
That’s what the 538 Politics podcast did by asking listeners to share their discussions with family members about the state of American democracy via a phone number they set up for the purpose.
13) Build a series, invite contributions, and let people subscribe to it
De Correspondent encouraged Shell employees to talk to them about their climate change concerns, and then created a mailing list for readers to follow the series.
14) Ask your audience what they’d like to know
ABC in Australia received more than 2,400 audience questions about their federal elections.
15) Get texts
Colorado Public Radio offered users a text-message number as well as an online form for both employers and employees to share experiences around the minimum wage.
16) Ask for information then make a map
The Los Angeles Times reached out to residents who experienced health problems in an area that had a gas leak, then mapped their responses to impressive effect.
Steal these ideas – and let us know how it works out.
At The Coral Project, we’ve worked this year to create tools and foster conversations to help news organizations create and enliven communities around their journalism — and we’ll have even more to report in 2017 as we release more software and research.
In the meantime, you can install and use our Ask form builder and gallery creator; try out commenting features and learn about the research around them in our Comments Lab; subscribe to our newsletter; interact with experts in our community; and read our blog posts on how to use forms effectively for audience engagement, how to avoid a malware attack when asking for user-generated content, and on tools you can use to help you engage with your audience.
We’d also love for you to join our contributors in 2017. Visit here for more information on how you can get involved.