Collaborating with audiences can build trust, help to verify information and enables news outlets to reach new readers, listeners and viewers.
At today's Polis journalism conference speakers shared several examples of projects that see news outlets collaborating with readers and listeners.
Cilla Benkö director general of Swedish Radio, a public service broadcaster, calls this 'Journalism 3.0'. She said journalism is about a two-way conversation with the audience. "And you must have that dialogue before you start to do your job," she said.
It is therefore important that journalists should have certain skills: they should be personal and they must have knowledge in the subject area being discussed, she said.
She said in the past there had sometimes been a “snobbish” attitude to audiences, assuming people would come and listen to the radio station. The focus has shifted and Swedish Radio is now going out and and finding new audiences and engaging with them. An example of this is how the station offers a radio player that any website can embed.
Benkö gave four examples of how Swedish Radio is collaborating:
1. By creating a 'PublicNetwork' and inviting people to contribute
Swedish Radio launched a project called ‘PublicNetwork’, piloting it at one of the local radio stations. Reporters "went out and invited people to contribute", Benkö explained.
Around 300 people signed up and now contribute, making suggestions for subjects they think should be covered by the radio station. "Three hundred people are participating rather than the same four people every day," Benkö said, referring to the journalists who take part in the news meeting.
2. By starting the conversation online
Swedish Radio has launched a social science project called ‘The Earth’. The conversation starts on The Earth blog and only then does the reporter chose a a topic and make a radio programme.
3. By using Twitter
This may seem like an obvious place for collaboration but Benkö made a point of explaining how journalists use social media. "Everyone must be on Twitter," she said, "not to promote news but to get information".
She also stressed that Twitter is not reliable and two sources are not sufficient to stand up a story.
4. By generating debate
Swedish Radio has also picked up on public debate. Benkö used the example of a conversation that was taking place in Swedish newspapers and elsewhere about acceptable language so as "not to be accused of being a racist".
Swedish Radio has an "urban station" in Stockholm, Benkö explained, and the team there "went out and asked people" what they thought. The radio team then made a video for the website and created a hashtag which gathered 600 "stories" from people debating and providing opinion. "Many people didn’t know Swedish Radio existed before the project," Benkö said.
Further examples came from other broadcasters discussing the subject at the Polis journalism conference today.
5. The Altijd Wat Monitor
This example from Dutch broadcaster NCRV was shared by Ruurd Bierman, a former director of Dutch public service broadcaster NOS.
This video explains how the Altijd Wat Monitor works. It focuses on "social subjects", including health and education and is about "opening the newsroom", Bierman said.
The video explains how people can "monitor the process of research live", and can participate, sharing opinions, documents and by commenting.
6. By asking questions
Trushar Barot, assistant editor of the BBC News UGC and social media hub, also shared examples of how he collaborates.
He said that "trust magnifies when you have a diversity of sources" and the "BBC therefore goes to as many sources as possible – and the audience is a great source".
Barot used the example of a video that circulated on social media last year that appears to show a man being buried alive in Syria. Barot said he had his doubts about the footage so in addition to going to Arabic and Syrian accent specialists at BBC Monitoring, he voiced his concerns on Twitter.
"Very soon people fed back," Barot said, explaining how one person analysed the audio layering. (You can also see a still from the video and read about Storyful’s analysis of the film here.)
After help from the audience, the conclusion was that the video was "probably a set-up", Barot said.
Correction: This article originally said there were seven examples. We numbered them incorrectly. Apologies.
Free daily newsletter
- Tom Hourigan, senior journalist, BBC News, on reporters' mental health during the pandemic
- Tip: How to challenge claims
- Three free online classes for journalism students this lockdown
- BBC's five tips to break into the technical side of the media industry
- Seven journalism mentorship schemes to bookmark in 2021