Analysis, Social Networking News, Tools of the Trade - by on Wednesday, December 12, 2007 5:30 - 5 Comments

What if You Had Digg Powered by Journalists? Or a Journalist Powered by Diggers?

I have always been a proponent of social bookmarking for journalists. When Digg was a young community, I used it as a resource for finding new story ideas. As I explained to Greg J. Smith recently, social bookmarking is a way to find experts in specific fields: "I am friends with Roy Schestowitz.
Roy is an open source maniac….If I want to know what’s
going on in the OS world, I look at Roy’s page. If I want to know about the environment – I turn to either Aidenag, SocialPyramid or Tomboy501. If I want to know about science, I turn to Hanksname."

Having sources who you rely on as "news-recommenders," never hurt.  There is editorial value in serving up the best links, but a good link-blogger will tell you – it takes time and effort. Just ask Romenesko. But with social bookmarking you can mimic Eyebeam Reblog, and get great links form a  volunteer effort. That’s what Digg is – a space where volunteers find links in their expertise area and share them.

This is all related to a new phenomena that could become more common for the networked journalist: Sharing links and information with journalists in other news organizations.

Why don’t reporters who are on the same beat share more information?

This was one of the motivating factors behind Scott Karp’s new social bookmarking tool: It’s made by journalists for journalists. is in private beta right now, but Scott says any journalist can register. is set up so that you could use it as a regular social bookmarking tool (think or as a way to network with other journalists interested in the same topic.

Beat bloggers who work for a national news organization might not want to tap into this second aspect. Sharing too much information might feel like losing a scoop. But for beat bloggers for local newspapers, it makes perfect sense. If I’m reporting on education in Dallas, why not share the sources (national or local) that I have with an education reporter who covers the topic from Florida?

The beat blogging project is about networking between journalist and sources. Publish2 has found another angle of networking that will benefit journalism – networking between beat reporters. Through tagging, a group of journalists can agree to show each other all their stories – allowing them all to know what sources the others have.

If they are in communication they can really drill down: Imagine our education reporters decide to use "standardized test" as a tag. is riding the wave in-between Digg and according to Scott karp. While Digg has become more of a social networking site, with bookmarking functionality, is a bookmarking site that can establish a social network of sorts. Publish2, he hopes, can be used personally as a bookmarking tool, but could also be used to aid journalists to find and work with each other.

Think of it as a Poynter 2.0: There is a core niche of journalism, but it is a space to connect to other people and share important ideas and information with them. It could have a tangible benefit to their work.

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  • Kent Fischer

    “But for beat bloggers for local newspapers, it makes perfect sense. If I’m reporting on education in Dallas, why not share the sources (national or local) that I have with an education reporter who covers the topic from Florida?”

    Your example hit me on the head because I am your example: for five years I covered education in Florida. Now I cover it in Texas. When I came to work for the Morning News five years ago, I brought my robust Florida source list with me. Know how many times it’s come in handy covering Dallas schools? Never. And why would it? Dallas is Dallas. Tampa is Tampa. The two don’t cross very often.

    This is a bigger problem I’m finding as we ramp up to the launch of the Dallas portion of the beatblogging project. This social network idea, to me, may have terrific application on beats that are big and broad and have huge audiences of experts, like “science” or the NBA or the drug industry. But when you get down to specific local topics — city schools, city hall — the universe of potential network members is confined to your locality. Sure, I could include in my network education enthusiasts in Florida and elsewhere, but what do they specifically know about Dallas schools? And if they can’t contribute to that discussion, why include them in the network?

  • David Cohn

    You bring up a good point: And yes — you were the reporter I had in mind while writing that example. I did think about the situation you had in mind (Local reporters need local sources)

    So while local reporters might have less of a direct benefit, I still think they can be found. A reporter in Florida won’t have sources that will relate to your Dallas beat but do any stories you write ever need a national source? Somebody from an education non-profit? Somebody from the government? Or, perhaps less of a direct benefit to you, I could see this as a way to help tutor younger reporters: They would be able to share links with you (a seasoned veteran) and you could take a quick look and tell them how great/horrible it is.

    Journalists are, in my experience, intellectuals trapped in a pragmatic job. There has to be a way to tap into the collective wisdom in this profession. Perhaps isn’t it – but it’s a step in that direction.

  • Kent Fischer

    Sure a network of reporters sharing sources and ideas is of value — in fact an invaluable network already exists, through an immensely popular listserv run by members of the national Education Writers Association. It does exactly the sorts of things you suggest. Although I will admit that I’ve dropped off the listserv — after 15 years on the beat it lost value and started to be an irritant with dozens of daily e-mails from reporters who were writing about stuff I didn’t care about/had no local connection.

    Maybe I’m approaching this with the wrong mindset? See, I’m trying to create something to fill a void, not re-create something that already exists elsewhere. That’s why I don’t think an inter-state or ultra-national network of education writers would be very practical for the few times I need a big-picture source. There waaay are easier ways to find those experts than by building, nurturing and growing a social network.

  • maryn

    I’m glad to see Kent raise the EWA as an example; the first thing that occurred to me as I read David’s post was, “But beat reporters *already* do that through their professional organizations.” Me, I belong to the Natl Assn of Science Writers and the Assn of Health Care Journalists, and the listservs for both those groups are chockablock with people asking for sources and others counter-offering their recent stories for names and ideas. I acknowledge this doesn’t have the speed or wide reach of sampling your audience by Twitter, but we’re talking here about tapping a peer network, not a social network – not necessarily the same thing.

  • camera dolly

    Nice contribution. Thanks. Keep up the good work here.

About was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
Patrick Thornton is the editor and lead writer of BeatBlogging.Org. He is @pwthornton on Twitter.