After watching the Us Now documentary this morning I started thinking about how participatory journalism could be improved upon. Here’s what I came up with:
One of the big things they emphasize in Us Now is the ability that the owners of Ebbsfleet United have to vote for not only who plays, but where they play. What if this notion were carried over to journalism?
Spot.us is already doing a great job of creating a model within which people can decide what stories get covered, but I don’t think it does enough.
The current Spot.us model allows for journalists to pitch story ideas that they would cover. The community then contributes until one such idea is funded. While definitely better than a traditional model couldn’t this be taken one step further?
What if we were to open a news organization completely up to a community? The people involved get to pitch story ideas and vote on which journalist they would like to see cover a story.
This could even be a way to generate revenue. A news organization could offer a premium subscription that would allow you access to these story pitches and newsroom decisions.
In my mind this would be a much better way to stimulate revenue than simply paying for the news to be delivered to you. Instead of being a passive consumer the reader would be engaged with the news process and would have a deep connection to what stories are covered and what perspective they are given.
Furthermore, by allowing the community to decide which journalist covers a story there’s a whole new range of perspectives that would be opened up.
For example, say I want to see more coverage of a sectarian conflict in South America, the traditional coverage would mean dispatching whoever the news organization’s specialist in that area is. What if instead I wanted the perspective of someone familiar with sectarian wars but who had experience in a different region of the globe? Maybe I would want Thomas Ricks to cover it because of his expertise in covering the conflict in Iraq. Who knows what this kind of new perspective might create.
There would certainly be downsides to such a model. For one, it would be a necessity for journalists to share and collaborate on their contacts. Ricks probably couldn’t just jump in and cover the conflict without first talking to the South American specialist about who he may want to talk to.
Ultimately though, I see a tremendous potential for allowing news coverage like this and I think that the types of stories covered could be quite fascinating.