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‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out’

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

First, this post has nothing to do with my mom (whom I love and who definitely loves me). But I thought it’d be a good time to post on the topic of fact-checking since it is Mother’s Day and all.

So, raise your hand if you were told this phrase in j-school: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

The basic gist, in case you missed that lesson, is no matter how much you trust someone, don’t just take their word for it. Verify the information.

About a week and a half ago, this ingrained fact-checking mantra stumbled on something that seemed incomprehensible to me. That’s where my story begins:

A local school district called a press conference in the days leading up to a tax referendum vote. The point of the event was to tout several recent awards/recognitions for their students and schools. I was already aware of most of the items announced. The only thing that seemed newsworthy to me was their pronouncement that BusinessWeek had named them, for a second year, the top academic school in the state. I sent my editor a note from the press conference telling him that was the upshot of the event. I was going to post it on Twitter as well, but I decided since it wasn’t breaking news I would wait to get back to the office to find the link online to share. So I talked to a few students, board members, superintendent, etc. and then went back to the office expecting to spit out a quick story.

But when I went to the BusinessWeek site, there was nothing promoted about the “recent announcement.” That seemed strange. I tried searching the site for the award and could only pull up the 2009 rankings. I tried Googling it — with all my Google-fu skills — and tried looking for it on the Great Schools site, because Great Schools had partnered with BW in 2009. Nada.

I tried to call the editors at the magazine. It was already 4:30 p.m., so I wasn’t sure I’d reach anyone. After being forwarded through several people, I ended up leaving a voicemail for an education reporter there. She called me back about an hour later and said she hadn’t heard anything about the project being repeated this year. However, she wasn’t involved the prior year, so she suggested I contact the projects editor. I left him a voicemail and e-mail.

Meanwhile, I e-mailed the superintendent to ask if he had any documentation. I also e-mailed the Education Writers Association listserv to see if anyone else had heard about the announcement. I assumed other reporters would be working on similar stories about their own local schools. But no one else on the very active list replied, which is unusual. The superintendent replied with a link to the 2009 rankings, which while not specifically dated on that story page, were linked to a story from 2009. The format of the URL also indicated to me the page was posted in January 2009. I pointed that out to him and asked how he heard about the award this year. We talked on the phone and he said he was going back to his office to try and find the e-mail he received a few weeks ago, which he would forward to me — and to the night editor because I had to leave soon.

It occurred to me maybe this was a print exclusive story or a package with a delayed online posting. I didn’t have access to a print copy of BusinessWeek at the office. And I didn’t have time to go to the library a few blocks away, but I did call their reference desk where a not-as-helpful-as-he-could-be clerk told me it wasn’t in this issue.

At this point, I needed to file something, but I couldn’t confirm the entire point of the story. I had been working since about 9 a.m. that morning, and I was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. that night at my part-time job. I wrote a story with all the information I had at that point, contact info for people I’d been reaching out to and told the night editor I’d forward the note from the superintendent when I got it on my phone. But when the note came in, it was really vague and not at all clear. My editors made the right decision to hold the story a day, even if it meant TV ran with the story and our news would be a little older than the press conference.

Long story short, it turns out this award wasn’t re-issued. The pages haven’t been updated. But between the still unexplainable e-mail the district officials received and the lack of a date stamped on the page, confusion had arisen that made them assume this was a new recognition. I found this out definitively the next day when I was able to reach the magazine projects editor. The story that ran in our paper ended up being the superintendent’s mea culpa for claiming a recognition that didn’t happen. As I pointed out, the district is still the top-ranked school in Indiana, but it hasn’t been recognized a second time.

So, here’s the lesson:

If they had just mentioned it to me and hadn’t called a press conference attended by several dozen community members, I probably would have just let it go and pointed out the mistake. It might have been mentioned on my beat blog, but just as likely not. I went into the story looking to validate not disprove the information. It hadn’t occurred to me until I was on the phone with the magazine reporter that the information could possibly be wrong. I just assumed I couldn’t find it. Instead, both I and the district got a lesson in the importance of fact checking and were able to set the record straight about what I believe was an honest mistake. (The TV station seemed to completely ignore this information, but then, their as-yet-uncorrected story was wrong to begin with because they said it was “Business Weekly” offering the honor.)

The other lesson in this is probably lost on BusinessWeek and other news entities, but I want to point it out anyway. Although there’s value in “evergreen” features, there’s also a real chance of danger in keeping something up too long and especially in not time/date-stamping it. Not everyone is as Web savvy as I am, and following the trail on this story it was very easy to see how someone would have misinterpreted the pages and information. It could get recrawled by Google and come across as fresh news, as has happened before. Or at the least, it could lead to confusion or blunders, such as the one I wrote about.

Who really loses in a News Corp./Bing deal?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I’m not a business person. That’s obvious. But I’ve read recently about how News Corp./Rubert Murdoch are in talks with Microsoft to have the new Bing search engine be its sole way of searching for content from the Wall Street Journal etc. Here’s the most recent Business Week article for a summary.

What’s so silly about this arrangement is I doubt it will hurt Google. But it’s almost certain to be bad for the WSJ.

Here’s my non-MBA-holding thought that seems to be overlooked: Most people who find news through Google are looking not for news from a certain outlet but for news on a certain event/topic. If I knew which outlet I wanted to read already, I would go to that Web site directly. Instead, I’m surveying the field of all or most possible news stories to decide which to glance at and how deeply I want to drink on that topic.

Partnering with a lesser-used search engine is only going to remove News Corp. holdings from the well of stories I might otherwise read. It’s not going to get me to switch to a new search platform just so I can read those stories. Sorry.

I think if, as the business week article mentions, more news companies formed alliances this might be harder to stand my ground. Certainly my survey would be less complete. But it would be kind of like the old XM vs. Sirius debate. (Only a Microsoft/Google merger is, um, not gonna happen.) You want to listen to something on both but you have to pick one or choose both, which would be inefficient. I don’t think I’d search for “explosion & Indiana” in both engines, for example. And I’m pretty well set in my ways using Google. Its dominance in the search marketplace tells me I’m far from alone. Therefore, I think it’d hurt the news providers switching to Bing more than it’d hurt or help either search engine. One bonus, however, is it would help other news outlets rank higher on Google with one of the biggest papers out of the way.

What I’ve learned two months into a 10-month series

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

You know it’s bad when even your boyfriend, who is not a journalist, keeps telling you that you need to update your blog. My last update was the end of July, so I didn’t want September to slip completely by, as August did, without any updates.

I also want to update everyone on the series I wrote about before the school year began and sent me into a crazy-busy tailspin.

As I previously wrote about, I began in August the first part of a 10-month series. The series is basically a year in the life of a local elementary school on the brink (it was then at least…) of restructuring because of No Child Left Behind. The idea was and is to go inside and spend time at a “failing school” to see what takes place in the classroom, on the playground, in the office, at the homes, etc. and examine why this school is in the position it is and what we can learn from it. It’s a comprehensive look at all the different factors that come into play, each month focusing on a different facet.

The August package was setting up the series, explaining all of the changes this year, introducing some key players and terms and spelling out why we are focusing on this one elementary all year. The second part, in September, was a look at the make-up and motivations of the teaching staff, with a look at how much researchers say those teachers matter to the kids success. The October story, which I’m just beginning now, is a look at the families that make up the high-poverty, highly transient population of the school.

Miller series part 1, August 2009. Miller series part 2, September 2009.

You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? I began work on developing and pitching this story and getting the permissions I needed during my second furlough in May. It took all summer to plan and prepare. And four days before the first story ran the school district dropped a bomb shell: The school’s changes — including an eleventh-hour agreement with the teachers union to extend the school day and year — were enough to constitute restructuring per the Department of Ed. It doesn’t have to worry about closing or replacing staff or hiring private management. That is great news for the school. But it meant a last-minute rewrite and refocus that was not at all fun.

The initial premise of my first version of the August story was essentially that this year was the last great effort to save the school. Once that news broke on Thursday afternoon, I had to not only write a story for online and then Friday’s paper. But I also had to completely start over on the mainbar of my Sunday package. Oh yeah, and Friday morning I had to work the 6 a.m. cops shift, which kept me plenty busy besides finishing that rewrite! It was a great exercise in Plan B and not cracking under pressure. I remember several people coming to me and saying, “I’m sorry about your series…” because they thought I’d give up on it since the premise had shifted. Not at all! The topics I and my editors identified are still important, and whether this school has “restructured” or faced the possibility doesn’t diminish what those areas can tell us not only about our community but about other schools that could reach this fate in the coming years.

Overall, the experience to date has been fascinating and frustrating.

I have absolutely enjoyed the hours I’ve sat in classrooms at the school just observing. Sometimes it’s entertaining and sometimes it’s heart-breaking. I’ve never been a teacher and don’t have the patience to become one, but these sessions have helped give me a glimpse of what exactly goes on in different classrooms and different types of classrooms. It’s been great really getting to talk to staff members and parents on a level I’ve never been able to reach before. It’s funny because the week before the second part ran, I spent nearly the whole school day there several days. A few of the teachers even asked when they were going to start paying me to be there since I was there so much.

Probably the greatest part so far has been the community feedback. In the months leading up to my series, I was writing a lot about the school because it was facing this major dilemma. And people were weighing in, not always constructively, with their opinions. Since the series started running, the discourse I’ve heard both personally and through letters to the editor and even story chat comments seems to be much more proactive. It makes me feel this is helping people understand what is happening (and has happened) and why it matters. Two weeks ago, I was covering a school board presentation at another local district. After the meeting, I was talking to some parents when another man came from across the auditorium and interrupted us to tell me, “I’ve been living here for decades, and you are the best education reporter we’ve ever had.” He specifically cited the first part of the series and said it laid out so clearly the issue that he felt he finally understood. What more could you hope for?

It’s been frustrating, however, because as much as I’ve been able to do, I don’t feel it’s been enough. I knew going into the school year this was going to be an “in addition to” project. That is this package is in addition to everything else I have to do to continue to be the best source of education news in our community. I knew that we were short staffed as it was. But it has been difficult to make this project a priority when the daily paper also needs fed and when there are dozens of other interesting stories I want to tell. Because while this is interesting, there are only 315 students at the school out of 20,000+ in the entire county.

It’s also been both helpful and frustrating working with the photographer on this series. It’s the first time either of us has really latched on to a major project. We’re both young and have lots of ideas but not a lot of time. Bouncing ideas off each other has been helpful, but sometimes we’ve snagged between working out vision out with our schedules. Sometimes it’s been from lack of communication between us or from us to the editors. We’re getting better, and I’m thankful to have her thinking about this as well. She has a multimedia background, so she’s done some video and is continuing that. This package, to date, hasn’t had as much multimedia as I’d like for the same reason I haven’t done as much as I want period: time. Our paper is ~40K circulation. We don’t have a large staff, which means we don’t have time to drop the ball on other things. My priority has been on finding and telling the stories (each package has been the front-page plus a spread inside on two pages), and time hasn’t allowed as much alternative story telling as I’d like. While my editors have been relatively gracious as my deadline approaches, I personally still worry about my time. Finding the time and carving it out to do this package right has definitely been my biggest challenge to date. I’m still struggling with it, but I’m getting better.

That last sentence is important: I am getting better. I am already a better reporter than I was two months ago when this began. One of the reasons I wanted to do this series was it is an opportunity to grow professionally. Not many people get the chance to do a story like this, whether for lack of ambition, buy-in from their editors or access to their sources. I am fortunate I am in a position to be able to tell theses stories. It has challenged me to improve my reporting, my research and my writing. I know, as the year continues, I’ll grow even more.

You can read and see what we’ve already produced and follow the series throughout the year: http://jconline.com/miller (The presentation leaves A LOT to be desired. But we’re stuck with this template, and yeah, it’s frustrating. But I’m trying to focus on things I actually can change.)

I’m still excited about what’s ahead. Glad to be one-fifth finished, but looking forward to more stories to come. If you have any feedback or ideas, definitely share them.

Who will push for public records?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

A man called the newsroom today to ask how he could keep his recent home sale out of the newspaper.

I told him we don’t exempt things from the records page. There are lots of people who wouldn’t want to be in the blotter or have their divorce or foreclosures reported.

His argument was, “It’s no one’s business.”

To which I replied, “Obviously, the government feels differently. That’s why they made it a public record.”

I explained that anyone — me, his neighbor, his best friend — could go get a copy of the information anyway.

“I know,” he said, “but if they really want to know, they should have to do the leg work.”

I explained his logic to him in other terms: “So, if someone wants to know what’s happening in City Council, they should have to attend the meeting right?”

He thought about it, thanked me for my time and went about his life.

The man wasn’t crazy or obnoxious about it. Someone in the assessor’s office told him who compiles the home sales for the J&C. (I picked up that editor’s line because he was off today.) The man said he didn’t want to hurt neighbors feelings by the price it sold for. I don’t have strong feelings about the journalistic value of publishing home sales. Except that for some reason people are nosy and love that stuff, so we print it. News is what people want to know, right?

My responses to his pleading was what surprised me. Normally, I wouldn’t be that forthcoming. It probably was I waiting on the state superintendent to arrive, so I really just wanted to get off the phone. But maybe it’s that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a world without journalists would look like.

I didn’t go into detail with him, but when I said the line about the city council, I was thinking, sarcastically, “So obviously nobody in this city actually cares about what’s happening.” That obviously isn’t true. Therein lies the importance of what we do that so many people take for granted.

This man wanted us not to print the information for the exact reason we publish a newspaper. We aim to get out, in a way that’s easy to access and digest, the information most people don’t know is available, wouldn’t know where to begin finding or would never have or take the time to pursue. You can argue about reporter’s biases and agenda, but one of the important roles we serve is as an impartial observer and chronicler. Our first draft of history, in most cases, is the only version that ever gets written. I have absolutely no stake in whether the price of that caller’s home gets printed or not. I do not care. But I do care that the record we publish is complete. He wanted it to be hard to access because he knows nobody will bother taking the time. Nobody except the newspaper that has decided publishing these public records is important. If journalists are not there to push for not only that but more important records, who will?

My new education beat blog at the J&C

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I started an education beat blog for the Journal & Courier in January.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. Two years in, I now feel I have a strong command of my beat. I also feel I can handle both my normal workload and the added work of the blog without diminishing my daily work. Even though I knew (and know) it is more work for me, it is something I think will improve my beat and my coverage. So in my annual review this year, I really pushed for it.

After some discussion with editors, showing examples of other education beat blogs and explaining my ideas, I got the go ahead to try. The first few weeks were just be me testing the waters. I’ve kept blogs before (obviously), but this is a bit different both for me and for the J&C. While we have a handful of staff blogs (mostly sports), we do not have any news reporters blogging. Until now.

Obviously, the test was “live” because it was through the Pluck system on jconline. (Pluck barely qualifies as a “blog” except in concept, but it is what we’re working with, and although it hinders easy access, I’ve decided it’s doable. I think.) But it wasn’t put on the staff blogs page or promoted in print until last week. The editors dropped it in a couple of the print “more online” refers. I highlighted it in a breakout on my weekly schools page. And in Sunday’s paper, I talk about it in a Q&A on the opinions page about my beat and new blog.

Q:Tell us about your new blog.
A: What gets printed in the newspaper is a fraction of what I report. Much of what happens never lands anywhere beyond my notebook. I wanted somewhere to put those items and other things that won’t make it into the J&C but that parents or teachers might be interested in knowing. I’m hoping it becomes a collaboration between me, publishing what I know so far, and readers, responding with their thoughts or even leads I don’t know about yet. Check out the School Notebook at jconline.com/blogs

I have no idea if anyone else has looked at it. No comments yet. But actually, I did get one reader who submitted a message to my profile with a story idea that I looked into and posted a blog post about. Then, when the Indiana House voted on the bill, I turned it into an A1 story. I would have learned the provision in the bill eventually, and did get notes about it a day after my initial blog post, but that person tipped me off a little earlier.

Basically, this is still very much in the experimental stage. I’m still trying to figure out both what to post, how often to post and when to post. I know there’s no magic formula. (Though, I have to say if I could replicate Kent Fischer‘s blog in Dallas here, I’d be pretty happy.)

So far, I’ve learned a few things:

  • It takes more time than I expected to write up a post, including appropriate links/files, etc. Since my regular workload remains the same, this is one of my hindrances.

  • But for those posts I later turn into a story or a brief for print, it reduces the time needed to write the pieces.
  • I have a long way to go to put this into my “routine.” For now, it’s more an afterthought than where I break news. (If it’s true breaking news, then I’m breaking it on the front homepage where more people will see it.) So far, my posts have come first thing in the morning, around lunch, when I’m waiting on a call back, when I’m done filing for the night … basically when the urge strikes.
  • I also need to figure out what to post/not post and make it regular. This is hard because my schedule is pretty unpredictable. However, I think if I started a few regular features, they would give me something to post even when news is slow. It would also make it harder for me to ignore the blog when I get busy, which has been a problem so far.

There are also a few brick walls I’ve hit that I’m working through:

  • Pluck, the social media program underlying all Gannett sites and which our staff blogs run through, is not at all user-friendly. Not for the blogger nor the reader. You can’t, for example, just write HTML code for a link or to make something bold/italic. You have to actually highlight and paste in your link using its form. This slows me down because I usually just write the HTML as I write the blog, without stopping. You also can’t just drop in a YouTube video or a google spreadsheet. It does let you upload some things, like images, but it’s very limited WYSIWYG. That makes it easy for a regular person to start a blog on the site. It makes it maddening for an experienced person.

  • There is no spell checker on the blog form. Since the posts don’t go through an editor, this is kind of an important feature. I have to spell check it in another program or site. Even the automatic spellcheck on Firefox doesn’t work on the site for some reason. I could write the post in another program, but then I have to go back in on the site and format the links/text.
  • There’s no easy way to point people to the blog. Pointing to a specific post is even more challenging. So far, what we’ve been doing is just referring people to the jconline.com/blogs directory. That works, OK. Except, then they have to find my blog (the second one listed for now). Then, even though the most recent three posts are listed, whatever they click takes them to the main page of the blog. And finally, from that page, they can actually click to read an entry. One entry at a time. I get that each of those are page views, but seriously, how many newspaper readers would follow three jumps for a 200-word story? I suspect even fewer will follow those jumps online.
  • Each post is its own page without context in reference to other posts. The main page is like a partial RSS feed: You see the first few sentences but have to click to see more. What’s more annoying, however, is that the posts themselves are standalone. You have to click to see them, then to see another one, you have to go back to the main page or click a recent post in the sidebar. There’s no “next” or “previous” and no way to see multiple posts on the same page. Again, this has to do with page views. But I tend to think ease of use will get someone to load more pages and stay longer, rather than get annoyed with an unwieldy, unintuitive interface.
  • Only the most recent 10 tags are shown. If you look in the sidebar, you can click on the most recent tags, but not any others. This is complicated for me because I want to make sure I’m using the same tags to make them useful. But it doesn’t recommend tags I’ve used in the past or have a list where I (or readers) can look specifically for that tag. This is a problem because I cover more than two dozen districts, with multiple schools. I want people to be able to find stories specific to their community. I haven’t figured out an easy way to do this yet.

Now that I’ve complained, here are a few things going OK:

  • The RSS feed seems pretty good. I would like some of the tracking and social media features feedburner (Google?) offers. But the feed works and includes — Thank you! — full posts.

  • I’ve been able to drop things on the blog before I could get the story out and also things I will never print. For example, the post about an anonymous $1,000 donation for impoverished kids and about schools continuing without power. I’m trying to limit these to things people might actually be interested in. I don’t want to bore the potential readers with process, but I do want to expose some of the things that spark my interest or might spark theirs.
  • It’s already prompted at least one story idea. See my comment above about the charter school bill. That is even before we’ve really started promoting it. As I start telling people on my beat about it and regularly promoting it on the schools page, in print, etc. I hope it will become more useful — for me and my readers.

I still have a long, long way to go to make this what I want. The blog is very much in its infancy. But so far, I’m already seeing the payoff, even if it sometimes come with the headaches. Unfortunately, many of the headaches are beyond my control. But where I can, I’m trying to come up with some other solutions/ideas to make it work.

Since I know some of my readers here are beat bloggers themselves, I’d be remiss not to end this post with this plea: What mistakes did you make that I should avoid, and what are your best tips?

Also, if you’re a beat blog follower: What posts get your attention? What could you do without? What would you want to read about your local schools/education?


I decided to take some time this morning before I go into work to come up with solutions to some of my complaints. Not ideal, by any means, but I think these will make it easier on my readers:

• I created a blog entry with every tag I’ve used so far and links to search for it. I will update that entry (dated to be the first entry in the blog) as more tags come into use. I also made a tinyurl for that entry (tinyurl.com/jcschooltags) and placed it in my “about me” section above the blog. Unfortunately, the profile section doesn’t let you actually create a link. So they’ll have to copy and paste it. I did put it as the top link in my “blog roll” — just under the most recent tags section.

• Until I come up with a better way to easily point people to the blog, I created a tinyurl to link people there: http://tinyurl.com/jcschoolnotebook

Updated: Where’s the RNC coverage in St. Paul’s Pioneer Press?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

My managing editor brought up a good point today. If you were the paper of record in a city where the nation’s eyes are focused for the week, wouldn’t you think the focus of that attention would merit a mention on your front page?

Now, because I’m not in St. Paul, Minn., I haven’t physically procured a copy of the Pioneer Press in print today. But I’m hoping, given their more than prominent online coverage, that this (below) is not the actual or I guess only front page they had today.

Pioneer Press sans RNC front page
(Via Newseum)

My guess, when Henry (my M.E.) brought it up was maybe they had a wrap or special section on the outside. Though, he pointed out, the barcode is still on this page, and from what I can tell, they’re labeling this the A-section. I thought about perhaps there being more coverage inside, except, if you were going to bury it inside you would at least refer to it out front, right?

So I’m left confused, and hoping I’m just missing something, as to why the dominant story is written by New York Times reporters out of New Orleans when national news is being made in your backyard. It’d seem to me most papers would lead with the arrests or the speeches or the chaos or the celebration or some local angle.

The other paper of record in the Twin Cities, the Star Tribune, as Poynter noted in its round-up of front pages today, went large with the convention.

Can anyone in St. Paul share some insight? Is the only mention on the front page of this paper of the Republic National Convention really a teeny refer to submit your video online at the bottom of the page?

(I took a look at their Front Page PDFs on the Pioneer Press Web site, and while it looks disorganized in general, there doesn’t appear to be any indication there was another front, and it does label this front page as the A1 section.)


Steve Mullis has answered my question and provided a photo of the actual front page/RNC section. I had originally put this question out on Twitter but no one could answer it, so I’m glad the blog worked. And I’m even more glad to see they didn’t ignore this story.

Pioneer Press actual RNC front page

Day in the Life of Greater Lafayette, with a twist

Friday, June 20th, 2008

The whole “24 hours in Community X” project has almost become cliche. I still love these photo collections though. As long as you don’t overdue it, they can be awesome glimpses of the every day life the newspaper too often overlooks.

Today, the J&C is taking a spin with its own Day in the Life project. But with an awesome twist.

We’ve been putting call-outs in our paper all week to solicit our readers photos. And the reporters have all been in touch with their beat contacts and sources to ask THEM to participate as well. (I think the editors wanted us to find people who would definitely participate to “seed” the site and encourage others. It looks like it’s working because so far many of the photos submitted are from people who appear to be regular beat contacts.)

Not only are we soliciting our community’s pictures, we’re publishing them and our own photographers work side-by-side (sort of) in real time online: Check out the sweet timeline our online staff put together.

Day in the life project

If you look at the timeline above, you can see that the staff photographer’s photos appear across the top and the reader submitted ones along the bottom. Just a quick glimpse through the photos today and it appears our readers have already posted more than our own photogs. That’s awesome. Some of those photos include kids camps, the mayor and police chief getting ready, a video conference call with the founder of C-SPAN, blowing bubbles, creating crafts, etc. A few even highlight the obvious: Looking at the J&C’s Day in the Life project.

We’re also giving this huge play on the front of our site:

day in life project

In the carousel (don’t ask me — that’s what the three tabs with big photos that rotate are named in GO4) they’re swapping out the most recent updates about hourly. Those link back to the timeline above.

There’s also a link to the special project from our “In the Spotlight” promo section.

Finally, the photographers are keeping an ongoing “notebook” of their adventures. (We do similar reporter notebooks regularly to just collect the tid-bits of big events. So all that campaign coverage included stuff like what the candidate’s playlist was, who was spotted there, any unusual things — like banners hanging from buildings or elderly women ripping candidate signs — or whatever just doesn’t fit in the mainbar but is worth noting. My hunch has always been these are the most read parts of the story because they’re quick hits.)

Back to my point.

Not only is this a great example of involving your readers and using them to literally be your eyes and ears in the community, but it’s also a good example of Web first.

See, we WILL be publishing the best of what is gathered today in print (both from our photogs and our readers). And like these sections always do, it will take a week or two to pull together. It will get its own special section and all that traditional stuff.

But what makes this so cool is that this is happening real time. The day is being published live — today. I think we’ll probably gather more submissions as the day progresses and people see that other community members are participating.

Final thought: Have your papers done anything similar? What did you learn? Could you do this?