This way next sign
Credit: By amslerPIX on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Using social media to engage with audiences and gather ideas for news stories is something many journalists are doing on a daily basis.

But a week-long 'pop-up' programme by Channel 4 News not only highlights the value in also engaging in person when possible, but the impact when these two practices work hand-in-hand.

A team from Channel 4 News is inviting local communities to suggest news stories using the hashtag #c4newspopup on Twitter, and is also spending the week travelling to five places across the UK to speak to people with stories to tell, broadcasting live from those locations each evening.

The locations include Fowey in Cornwall, where the team has set up camp today, followed by Swindon, Teesside, the Lake District and finishing in Edinburgh on Friday.

Each broadcast will cover two stories, the first looking at the economic news story for the area, and the second based on crowdsourced results of what local people feel is a key story which needs to be covered.

Head of online Anna Doble told that the television and website teams wanted "to get out of London" and report from different places across the UK.

"We thought August was a good time to do it, hopefully because the weather's okay and traditionally news is slightly quieter."

She added that recent news on economic growth has given the impression "that the green shoots of recovery are genuinely starting to appear".

Therefore the team will "invite people to 'pitch' a story, then speak to people first-hand about whether they really are experiencing an economic recovery," she added.

"We just wanted to put that to the test by going to five locations across this week and report on the big local issues, talk to people locally and we are physically popping up with a banner." The five locations were chosen based on whether they had "a good economic story" to share and a "very visual Great British look to them".

Ahead of this week Channel 4 News has been inviting suggestions on what it should report on using the Twitter hashtag and via a special email address, and is asking people to continue to share their ideas.

"We've been fielding responses and trying to work out which are the best stories we can tell and which are the clear big issues for more than a small group of people," Doble said.

She explained that the team is keen to "be guided by the local communities" over the coming week, and not just those within the five locations they will be in.

"We want the nation's stories," she said. "We want everybody to join in on it." So even while they are based in Fowey, for example. they are still interested in hearing from those outside Cornwall and the south west region.

At the end of the week the team plans on running a Google Hangout from Edinburgh, which will aim to address "the key issues" raised that week. The Hangout will involve one representative from each area the team have visited, and take place immediately after Friday's programme.

"Jackie Long will present the show then switch headphones and pop up on the website and talk through the big issues the week raised," Doble said.

For digital newsrooms, it is important to remember that when it comes to working with social media, "it's only ever good when it's twinned with real people and real scenarios", she added.

"When we did #nogobritain which was the first really truly social media-led project that we did, it wasn't good until we had real people telling us their story from train lines around the country." (You can read more about the award-winning #nogobritain campaign here.)

"Likewise with this, it's all good and well reaching out to people with hashtags and telling people we want their opinion, but actually really physically hearing Cathy Newman is going to present tonight from the beach in Fowey and just being in the area for a day or two hopefully completes the loop."

Update: This article was updated to clarify Channel 4's existing reach across the UK and the areas of interest for this project.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).