How ProPublica is experimenting with Reddit

/// How ProPublica is experimenting with Reddit

March 27, 2013  |  Blog

Encouraging the community to be part of the editorial process was given an extra push at ProPublica earlier this year, with the launch of its Get Involved page.

The page acts as a hub on the website for the US investigative journalism outlet, highlighting the different ways its community can be involved in the work of the non-profit.

Since the launch of the page ProPublica has had an “influx of ideas”, prompting the organisation to think about other platforms it could also engage with its community on around these ideas.

At the end of last week it turned to Reddit to try just that, setting up its own ‘subreddit’ which describes itself as “an experiment to surface some story ideas that deserve broader attention”.

“Here, anyone can pitch investigative stories they think deserve to be reported out, and for you to vote on what you think is worth pursuing. ProPublica editors, and your mods, will be watching for stories to report.”

Continuing its open approach, the outlet also invites reporters from other news organisations to make use of the ideas being discussion.

“Because of our size, we have to be selective about the topics we investigate,” the subreddit description adds. “Yet there are lots of accountability stories that deserve to be told”.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, senior engagement editor Amanda Zamora said following the launch of Get Involved “we noticed that we started to get a lot more ideas from folks who were signing up for our reporting network, pitching ideas for stories and news apps and all kinds of things”.

“Obviously we’re thrilled at the enthusiasm and the energy coming from our readers, but also recognising that many of these ideas are not things that we’ll be able to get to as an organisation.

“So we’re just brainstorming around ways that we could kind of create a better place for some of those ideas that would be a bit more open than our email.”

While story ideas, such as those which need to remain confidential, can still be emailed in to the team, the news outlet hopes Reddit can act as a useful platform for an enhanced sharing and discussion experience around other suggestions which can be dealt with “in an open source way, and instead of keeping them all to ourselves, throw them out for discussion”.

Outlining the benefits of the platform for a news outlet, Zamora said it “can be really powerful at calling attention to stories and ideas that the community there votes up”.

Subreddits in particular, which Zamora described as “basically micro-communities around particular topics or interest areas”, help focus the discussions even further.

ProPublica’s subreddit, like others, has its own guidelines for the community to follow, such as how best to present their idea and not to “pitch jobs or services”.

“Beyond that we are learning as we go about how the community operates and how to proceed with some of these ideas in terms of capitalising on some of them ourselves, and/or hopefully connecting other journalists with good reporting ideas,” Zamora said.

A number of other news outlets and individual journalists have also taken to Reddit to engage with their community. In October last year Al Jazeera English’s The Stream ran a discussion within the existing politics subreddit community during the presidential debate, and a month later Gaza correspondent Nadim Baba took questions via an AMA, Ask Me Anything.

The Economist’s digital editor Tom Standage also ran an AMA, Ask Me Anything, on Reddit at the beginning of the year. And Zamora said ProPublica journalists have also been involved in AMAs in the past, with much “success”.

“We have found that when we have big stories we are able to go to Reddit and not plug our stories necessarily but invite a discussion, or questions from readers about those topics and we’ve had a lot of success there.

“So we know that there’s sort of an appetite already on Reddit for the kind of work that we do and we wanted to figure out a way to cultivate it a little bit more proactively. So that’s kind of what this subreddit lets us do.”

Link: How ProPublica is experimenting with Reddit

Journalism.co.uk – Rachel McAthy

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