Below you’ll find a post I created to go with a beatblogging presentation at BCNI Philly.
It’s a quick start guide on what beatblogging is, how to do it and best practices.
What is beatblogging?
Beatblogging is the practice of using social media, blogs and other Web tools for beat reporting.
To be a beatblogger, a journalist must engage in two-way communication. This mean interacting with people on Twitter, in the comments after blog posts and stories, through Facebook and other social networks, by conducting live chats and liveblogs, etc.
It’s important to point out that just because a journalist has a beat and a blog doesn’t make them a beatblogger. That just makes them a beat reporter with a blog. Two-way communication and user interaction are the cornerstones to beatblogging. Conversely, a beat reporter does not need a blog to be a beatblogger.
Two-way communication and interaction can happen on social networks and or during a liveblog, for instance. The key to beatblogging is not, nor will it ever be, about having a blog, but rather it is all about user interaction. We like to call beatblogging Rolodex 2.0, because it’s a way to expand the number of sources a beat reporter has.
In an earlier post Jay Rosen defined a beatblog as:
A beatblog in the expansive sense is any blog that sticks to a well-defined beat or coverage area, whether it is the work of a single person or a team, whether it is authored by a pro or an amateur journalist. A beatblog can be part of a large site, or it could stand on its own. Normally, the beat is explicit and obvious from the home page of the blog, but it is possible for a beat blog to have an “implicit” or unusual beat that isn’t immediately apparent to a casual user.
Content-wise, a beatblog presents a regular flow of reporting and commentary in a focused area the beat covers; it provides links and online resources in that area, and it tracks the subject over time. Beats can be topical (like dot.earth, which is about natural resources and the environment) or narrowly geographic (West Seattle blog) or both (Atlantic Yards Report) or activity-related (Family Life, which is about “raising a family.”)
- More sources — Beatblogging allows journalists to find more sources. This means better and easier reporting. Good beatblogging can allow a journalist to cover a beat easier and more in-depth. Many of these new sources will contact beatbloggers with info, documents and links. In today’s era of limited resources and cutbacks, beatblogging is a powerful way to get more out of less.
- Crowdsourcing — Beatblogging can be an excellent way to crowdsource stories and have readers help report. These days, reporters could use all the help they can get, and why not harness the wisdom of our users? Some beatbloggers even ask their readers to be their assignment editors.
- Conversation — Social media is really about having a conversation. Beatblogging can be a great way to get people talking, and this can become a big part of your product. Alexander Russo’s District 299 blog is all about “hosting” the conversation. His blog is designed to be a place for people to discuss Chicago education news and policy, and people come to the blog largely for the conversation. Yes, he has good editorial content too, but the conversations are a big part of what makes his blog special.
- Users add value — People add value to beatblogs. They help reporters report, they leave links and comments after posts, they share their own experiences — they become a reason to come to the site.
- More traffic — Good beatbloggers will generate more traffic for their content, because their content will have more around it. A blog that has a strong community built around it with lots of thoughtful comments will get much more traffic because people will be checking back several times a day to see the new comments. People will come to a blog just for the conversation, because comments add value.
Here are what some beatbloggers had to say about beatblogging via Twitter:
chronsciguy – It’s fun. It’s immediate. It makes me a much, much better reporter.
mneznanski Why I beatblog? Because it’s more fun than just writing for a newspaper. Because I know what people are reading. Because I do better, more informed journalism with it than without it.
saraneufeld It’s great source-building and an opportunity to tell stories I can’t in the newspaper. Plus, it’s fun.
Top notch beatbloggers
- Eric Berger — You can’t get much better than a Pulitzer Prize finalist, which Berger was this year because of his stellar beatblogging efforts related to his coverage of Hurricane Ike. This coverage from Berger included live, daily chats about the oncoming storm, continuous updates and coverage on Berger’s SciGuy blog and reports on Chron.com.
- Kent Fischer — Fischer (now out of journalism) was one of the best at using his beatblog to help him report and discover new stories. His beatblog helped him uncover an A1 (and later national in the WSJ) story. His readers routinely fed him stories, documents, etc. Beatblogging simply allowed him to be a better reporter. Listen to why Fischer thought beatblogging was such a useful tool for him as a reporter.
- Monica Guzman — Guzman is the master conversation starter and community cultivator. If you’re looking for ways to build a community around your beat, you can’t find much better than Guzman. Unlike the other beatbloggers listed here, Guzman’s main job is to start conversations with readers.
- Brian Krebs — Krebs is an excellent example of what can happen once a community is cultivated. Many of his readers are quite knowledgeable about computer security and really add to the conversation. In fact, blog posts often pick up once the comments start rolling in. Krebs’s users have added a tremendous amount of value to his blog. Krebs discusses the power of a strong user community in this Q&A.
- Cultivating a community — The best way to cultivate a community is to be A) active in your community by responding to comments and B) taking an active role in comment moderation. It takes work to cultivate a community, but it provides rewards. Berger discusses how to build a community in this podcast.
- Hoisting comments — Once a community is cultivated, a beatblogger will want to start acknowledging when people leave strong comments. Many beatbloggrs have begun hoisting comments with weekly “comment of the week” features. It’s a good way to pat readers on the back. Better yet, check out Jon Ortiz’s “blog back” concept. It’s similar to hoisting comments but more in-depth.
- Crowdsourcing — A good beatblog has a large network of sources around it. Many of these sources are experts in in certain fields and topics. Why not ask them for help? The Buzz Out Loud crew discussed how their users know more than they do in this podcast. BOL’s listeners are a big part of the show because they are so knowledgeable, they help report and they provide in-depth knowledge that the hosts often don’t have.
- Be accessible — Make it easy for people to contact you on your blog, Twitter, etc. Good beatbloggers are transparent. People want to interact, so it make it easy for them. Guzman even has weekly in-person office hours and meetups.
- Learn by example — Don’t be afraid to borrow someone else’s good idea. Each week we profile innovative beatbloggers and best practices. If you see something you like, start doing it yourself.
Great examples and lessons
- Blog readers lead to A1 story for Dallas Morning News
- Dispelling FUD on news Web sites and blogs
- Timing can impact traffic to a blog
- Tony Pierce, a “blogger gone pro” at the LA Times | Part 2
- Wired.com harnesses readers to produce better content
- Mortgage blogger Tanta, who saw (and wrote) it all, passed away but legend grows
It’s not the best time to work for a newspaper: lay-offs, buy-outs, pay cuts and more
Against this backdrop, one of our favorite beatbloggers, Ed Silverman, left newspapers last year. His former employer, The Star-Ledger, may not survive the year. Another one of our favorite beatbloggers, Kent Fischer, announced that he’ll be leaving journalism too.
Fischer had survived several rounds of lay-offs, buy-outs and pay cuts at The Dallas Morning News but wondered how much more his employer could keep making big cuts, while still delivering a quality product. Fischer’s partner in crime on the DISD Blog, Tawnell Hobbs, will carry on the torch by herself. She’ll be expected to run the blog and be a major contributor to print.
Kent Fischer | The Dallas Morning News
- Fischer was one of the first beatbloggers to begin hoisting comments. He realized early on that it was important to acknowledge readers when they contributed something worthwhile to the conversation. Each week Fischer has been picking a comment of the week.
- Fischer also began accepting guest posts from community members last year. His blog is read by many insiders, and the majority of the comments left on his blog are from insiders. He wanted to tap into that network and give some of his top contributors the chance to have a bigger voice. Also, Fischer scheduled his guest posts around summer vacation, a time when education coverage is usually light. The summer is the perfect time to start discussions about bigger issues in education.
- Fischer was one of the first journalists I studied that really got that user comments add value to a news Web site. He understood that not only are comments something that attracts users, but they can also be a great place for thoughtful debate. And they can even be a place for beat reporters to discover stories.
- The comments left on the DISD Blog were usually quite good. Fischer took care to make sure a comment ghetto did not form. A strong comments community requires a journalist who is willing to cultivate a community. It takes a journalist who is not afraid to regularly enter the fray, and Fischer genuinely respected the opinions of his users.
- Fischer wasn’t afraid to try anything. He said that he regularly tried new ideas and features and saw what caught on. If something didn’t catch on, he would move on to something new. It was that ethos of experimentation that really allowed Fischer to shine.
- We’ll have more on Fischer, the lessons he learned from beatblogging and why he left journalism in a podcast later today.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Krebs was nominated this week for using his blog to provide context to a series of print stories. He explains why the stories are worth reading, what’s new about them (the topic of cyber terrorism is not new) and he provides background and context. Krebs also provides some nitty gritty details that may be too minute for the print edition. And, as always, his blog is the perfect place to provide links to resources.
- Krebs also did some quick checks on the Internet and found some compromised U.S. utilities. These companies have computers that were recently infected with bots and backdoors. His blog post does an excellent job of explaining what the threats are and how they could be harmful to U.S. citizens.
- Again, it’s the comments where this post really begins to shine. Krebs has built up a knowledgeable user community. In the comments you’ll find users asking questions about how easy it is to become infected, what precautions should be taken, etc, and you’ll find other users providing detailed answers.
- Krebs did not write the print stories he linked to, but he did provide excellent context around them. His blog post was a strong compliment to the print content his paper product.
Brian Christopherson | Lincoln Journal Star
- Life in the Red, a joint, staff blog at the Journal Star is one of the better sports blogs we’ve seen. The beat is all things Nebraska Cornhusker related, and a team of five bloggers shares the responsibility.
- One of the things we really like about this blog is the interaction. Sports fans are often a very passionate bunch and sometimes quite knowledgeable. They would love the chance to get to interact with sports writers they follow. On this seemingly simple post, Christopherson and users are discussing safeties for the Nebrasks football team. It all started with a simple post about redshirt freshman P.J. Smith and a quote from head coach Bo Pelini saying Smith could push for playing time with senior Larry Asante.
- This is the kind of little nugget of information that probably wouldn’t make a good print story. Even if it were a print story (or part of a “news an notes” kind of feature) it wouldn’t be nearly the same as doing it online. Each nugget of information gets its own blog post (good for SEO and segregating conversations to individual topics). Breaking these nuggets into individual posts increases visits and comments.
- Also, the Life in Red blog provides the perfect opportunity for beat reporters and fans to discuss minute topics like this. All of the sudden this seemingly small nugget of information becomes a launching pad for debate among writers and users.
Brian Krebs is one of the premier beatbloggers and a big reason for that is the strong user community that has formed around his blog.
Krebs believes that interaction is at the core of good blogging. After all, is it even really a blog without user interaction?
My favorite quote from our Q&A sessions is:
Readers are more inclined to speak their minds, interact with others, and generally contribute to a more well-rounded discussion and story if they get a sense that the author is accountable and responsive.
You can find why we like him and his blog so much here. Without further ado, here is our Q&A:
Q: How did you get into blogging? Why did you start Security Fix? What was the original vision?
A: It really was meant, I think, as an outlet for some of the stuff I was telling my editors about in our weekly planning meetings. I was always mentioning things in passing that maybe didn’t seem to amount to a full story, but then we’d invariably see some other news outlet get attention a few weeks later printing essentially the same thing. So, early on the thinking was, well, here’s a place where we can put all the stuff that isn’t quite fully baked into a story, or maybe is interesting or timely but doesn’t justify spending a whole lot of time on. We also envisioned it as a way to let readers know about the latest security threats and ways they could protect themselves.
Q: How has the blog morphed and changed over the years?
A: From pretty early on, I began using the blog to break news, both investigative and day-to-day stories. It also has been tremendously helpful as a supplemental publishing vehicle for stories that run on our Web site or in the paper. This allows us to dig a little deeper into the technical side of the story without scaring away readers.
Security Fix also has grown quite a bit due to the community of readers that has built up around it. Quite often, some of the most interesting items in the blog can be seen in the comments sections of each posts. We are working on some redesign ideas for the blog (which hasn’t had a facelift since it first launched four years ago), and some of the ideas we’re planning to implement will be geared toward encouraging more readers to leave more thoughtful and engaging comments and voice their opinions.
Q: Do you do work for the print edition?
A: I work for Washingtonpost.com and have for nearly six years now. Traditionally, I have been an online reporter who’s been lucky enough to see his stories in the print edition about two to three times per month on average. But the distinction between the .com and the paper is one that will be ending soon. We are currently in the process of merging the two newsrooms into one physical space.
Q: How does your blog help you report?
A: Put simply, it is where I do most of my work, so to say that it “helps” my work is probably a bit of an understatement. For a variety of reasons, producing a story in the traditional sense on the site sometimes takes longer than publishing the same content out over the blog; so in some sense that helps me publish scoops faster — although, an editor looks at and approves everything I write before it goes up on the blog.
Our readers really do help me report stories out more thoroughly. The nice thing about a blog is you can and should update it frequently, and so if I leave out an important perspective or relevant fact or link, I can add that after the fact along with a note letting readers know we’ve done so. But more importantly, news tips from readers are wonderful and very helpful. Unfortunately, they sometimes come in the form of comments, which means all of my competitors get to see them the same time I do.
Q: You have built up a knowledgeable community around your beat. Users regularly make great points in the comments after your post and share links. How were you able to build up such a strong community?
A: Computer and Internet security are fields that attract people who are detail-oriented and by and large well-informed. Thankfully, these same folks are also usually quite opinionated. I, however, try not to inject my opinion in the blog pieces I write, and prefer to tell a compelling story by thorough reporting and attention to detail.
Probably the other big subset of readers are regular readers who don’t want to have to become rocket surgeons in order to understand how to stay safe online each day. I spend as much time writing for those readers as well, because they’re a huge subset of the blog’s audience, and because people expect that they will find updates at Security Fix about the important, timely and uncomplicated security-related developments as they impact the average computer user.
Q: You also frequently interact with users on your blog. Why do you do this? How does it help your blogging and reporting?
A: Because interaction is the essence of what blogging should be about, in my opinion. Readers are more inclined to speak their minds, interact with others, and generally contribute to a more well-rounded discussion and story if they get a sense that the author is accountable and responsive.
Q: What kinds of Web and social media tools do you use to help you do your work?
A: Not many. I may one day be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Twitter and Facebook, though. I use both of those networks for finding people, of course, but I’m still a little wary of interacting with people and sources via these networks when I’m working on investigative stories. Twice in the past month, I’ve had to scold sources after the fact, for Twittering their friends for the answer to a question I’d asked them to which they didn’t have an answer — effectively telling the whole world the focus of my then-unreported story.
This week’s Leaderboard is all about two-way communication by interacting with users.
The best beat bloggers have established networks around their beats with knowledgeable sources and users. Many of these users add significant value to the beat blogs they comment on. They link to additional resources and Web site, cite studies, forward the debate along and fact check a beat blogger’s work.
Beat bloggers may not always agree with these users, but they can’t imagine their blogs without them either. Beat blogs that are surrounded by an active and knowledgeable community offer so much more for people. These blogs feature great content from beat bloggers and from users.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- Look at how Berger interacts with his users in the comments after his posts. They go back and forth, help each other out, publish links and more. Berger published the results of a new study that says that being overweight is as bad for a person as smoking. Berger’s users had much to point out and questioned whether the study is that definitive (Berger hinted that he was skeptical too).
- Berger’s users brought up several strong points: This study only looked at young males. Many suggested that it would be difficult to apply these findings to women, and they provided sources and links backing up their thoughts. Also, Berger’s users pointed out that there is a difference between becoming overweight/obese later in life than being overweight/obese from a young age.
- All of this back forth made for a lively discussion and the real value of this post become apparent after his users had a chance to weigh in. All Berger did was provide a succinct summary of the study and his users ran with it.
- Berger’s post was interesting, but the comments really take this to a new level. Plus, Berger’s users helped correct some mistakes in his original post.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Yet again, Krebs is providing a public service to his users. This post didn’t take long to write, but it will certainly help keep his users safer. For a beat like computer security, it’s important to give users real value. Krebs does that every week by helping his users navigate the rough waters of computer security.
- In this post, Krebs is explaining what to do if users receive unsolicited IM messages on GMAIL from “ViddyHo.” This is a phishing scam aimed at gaining access to GMAIL users’ credentials.
- Krebs also explains why this phishing attack can be particular bad for people; GMAIL accounts often use the same logins as valuable Google Adsense and Google Checkout accounts. Access to either of those could leave a person financial vulnerable.
- What makes this post truly Leaderboard worthy is how his users fill in additional information about the phishing attack and the ways that it can harm users.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- This is just an all-around great example of beat blogging. State workers have been greatly affected during the financial crisis, and the financial crisis’s affect on state workers been a big part of Ortiz’s blog — The State Worker — the past few months. In California and other states, one of the major ways politicians have proposed covering huge budget shortfalls is by furloughing state workers, cutting their pay and benefits and even laying them off.
- Ortiz found issues affecting state workers in other states and linked to stories and blog posts highlighting how the financial crisis is affecting those state workers. He also wanted his users to check out the comments that state workers were leaving, because they mirrored the comments that Ortiz had been getting for months on his blog.
- This post is, at its heart, link journalism. It’s just very focused link journalism. The idea of finding a specific topic that is more niche than the beat itself and finding interesting links is an idea that more beat bloggers should explore. This bit of link of journalism got Ortiz’s users talking.
Good beat reporters have something that most people don’t — access.
Journalists have access to politicians, sports stars, scientists and other experts. What if journalists created more content that harnessed their ability to gain access? Is there even a business model to be created around access?
That last point will be left for others to debate and discover, but this week our first Leaderboard member shows the power of access.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- Every month Berger has a chat with experts on a different science topic. Users are free to submit questions and the best ones are put forth to the experts. This month Berger brought in two experts on climate change to answer his users’ questions.
- Berger uses a popular live blogging technology, CoveritLive for his chats. CoveritLive allows Berger to screen questions as they come in and then broadcast the best ones for his experts to answer.
- These chats are popular when they happen live, but they also make great content once they are over. Each chat is automatically archived, allowing users to read over the questions and answers at anytime.
- These chats can also be provide fertile ground for potential blog posts and stories for Berger. His users may pose questions that Berger may not have thought of before. He can then look into those topics more indepth.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Krebs is consistently rewarded for building such a strong community around his beat. Again, Security Fix users are helping each other out by providing information on computer security. Krebs made a post about the Conflicker Worm that has been rapidly infecting Windows users, and Security Fix users provided each other with tips on how to keep their machines safe.
- He has developed a great beat blog that has useful information on a daily basis. But what really makes his blog shine is the kind of users he has gathered around it and the comments they leave. Users can learn an awful lot from the comments left after posts. They are a treasure trove of knowledge.
- Krebs shows us why building a community is so important. Many of his blog users are very knowledgeable about computer security and many work in the IT field. Krebs has actively cultivated a community of knowledgeable users, and because he is so active in the comments section, users leave more thoughtful and civilized comments. Krebs has not allowed a comment ghetto to form.
- The community has made Security Fix into a better blog. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine Security Fix without the community that has formed around it.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- This post is an excellent all-around example of beat blogging. Ortiz was alerted to the blogger he mentions in this post by one of his users. Then his users provide excellent information and insight in the comments after his post. Ortiz has a network of California state workers around his blog that can provide great insight.
- One of his readers told Ortiz to check out a post by a blogger analyzing a report by the California CIO. The blogger raised questions and interesting points about the report. Berger took the best points the blogger made and asked the government of California to respond. He then posted the unedited e-mail to his blog.
- This post is an excellent example of what happens when a beat reporters builds a network around this beat. Ortiz has a niche blog that focuses on issues surrounding state workers. Because of this, Ortiz has been able to build a much larger network of state worker sources than before he had the blog.
- Both Ortiz and Krebs also demonstrate the power of having a niche beat blog. A blog about the state of California or about the government in general would probably attract a lot of non-government workers. The State Worker, on the other hand, mostly appeals to state employees — exactly the kinds of people Ortiz wants to add to his growing network of sources.
This week’s Leaderboard is about users adding value to journalists’ content.
Good beat bloggers build strong communities around their beats. These communities not only can help journalists report news and stay up-to-date on industry news, but they can also add value with strong comments after posts. Slashdot in particular has made an art form out of having comments after posts be more valuable than the original posts themselves (not coincidentally, Slashdot has one of the best commenting systems around).
Just about all of the beat bloggers we follow have built strong communities. These communities help journalists report, but there are some beat bloggers who have built such strong communities that their users and their comments and links are just as imporant as the original content itself.
Kent Fischer | The Dallas Morning News
- We’ll say it again, Comment of the Week is a feature that every beat blogger should copy.
- So many journalists are worried about allowing comments on posts and other content. Want to know a great way to get great comments from users? Acknowledge when users leave great comments. That’s exactly what Fischer does, and his blog has some really good comments. It also has a strong community around it.
- Fischer regularly interacts with users on his blog, and this is a key to building a strong community around a blog. By interacting with users, Fischer also has fomented a stronger and more civil community around his blog.
- Many news organizations have done a wonderful job of creating comment ghettos, filled with inappropriate, acidic, banal and often off-topic comments. These comment ghettos represent everything that many journalists hate about user comments.
- Fischer and other beat bloggers have prevented comment ghettos from forming by being active in their communities. Acknowledging when users leave comments that really add to the conversation is another great way to prevent comment ghettos from forming.
Matt Neznanski | Corvallis Gazette Times
- Live blogging is a great way to utilize the Web in ways that print never could. Services like CoveritLive make it easy for journalists to cover live events in real time. Twitter is also another popular way to provide real-time coverage of events.
- Live blogging is much more than just providing instaneous updates. It’s also about allowing people to have a voice. CoveritLive, Twitter and other services allow users to submit questions and make comments. A journalist can take this real-time questions and ask city council members, for instance, their thoughts.
- A live blog also has value after an event is over. CoveritLive makes it easy to create an archive of a live blog for users to read.
- Neznanski shows the power and immediacy of live blogging when he recently covered a City Blog meeting on homelessness. CoveritLive is quickly becoming a big-time tool for beat bloggers.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- We’re continually amazed by the quality of the community around Krebs’ Security Fix blog. Good beat blogging is a way to build a strong community. Security Fix reminds us of Slashdot but with better original content.
- Krebs routinely makes posts that his users add additional insight and links in the comments section. Krebs himself is also very active in the comments section, answering questions and helping users out. There is an incredible sense of community on his blog where people are there for each other.
- This past week Krebs reported on fake online shopping sites that were trying to spoof legitimate sites. The debate and discussion after the post is arguably better than the original post itself. Users are sharing more fake sites to avoid, ways to tell if a site is fake or has a good reputation and tools people can use to make e-commerce safer.
- This is what happens when you build a strong community of knowledgeable users. It’s hard to imagine Security Fix without user comments. Many journalists fear user comments, but Krebs and Security Fix show how comments can add a lot of value to journalism.
Beat blogging is all about expanding ones networks using social media, blogging and other Web tools.
An expanded network allows for more tips and more chances for crowd sourcing. But people are much more likely to help journalists with their reporting if journalists provide a tangible service to them. Many of our beat bloggers have given users an unprecedented level of coverage and also helped provide their users with a service.
For instance, Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs alerted Dallas school teachers to career fares and job openings after many of them were laid off due to an unexpected budget crisis. They’ve built good will with many of their readers.
Our lead nominee this week provides quality journalism and a service to his readers.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Krebs helps his readers out, and you know what, they help him out. Journalists who want to use social media and Web tools in a very one-way, me-focused manner will find limited success.
- Krebs was nominated for his post encouraging users to update Java on their computers because cyber criminals have a history of targeting Java vulnerabilities. This post reminds readers of the importance of updating Java on their PCs. Krebs also links to a tool that will let users know if they have the latest version of Java.
- In addition, Krebs links to a free tool from Secunia that helps Windows users stay up-to-date on all their software. While reporting on Java vulnerabilities and patches is his beat, Krebs doesn’t have to go out of his way to make sure people are as secure as possible on their PCs.
- The usefullness of Krebs’ blog, however, just begins with his blog posts. One user asked for examples of when cyber criminals attacked Java, and Krebs provided three examples. Other users were having trouble with Adobe Flash and Secunia. Krebs offered solutions to those problems as well.
- If you want users to help you do your job better (by expanding your network of useful sources) than it makes sense to help users out. Krebs follows this principle.
Tawnell Hobbs | The Dallas Morning News
- Hobbs puts a tough question up to her readers. “Should Dallas teachers who missed out on receiving federal grant money because their principals failed to follow rules receive the cash from DISD?”
- This question becomes tough to answer because the Dallas Independent School District has been facing a financial crisis for months. Yet, many teachers missed out on federal funds ranging from $1,000-10,000 per teacher just because some principals failed to follow federal rules properly. Some of the teachers who qualified recently lost their jobs because of a reduction in force due to the budget crisis. DISD trustees are split on what to do.
- What better way to judge opinion than to ask your readers? Hobbs can use the comments she gets from readers (most of which are a part of DISD or former, laid-off colleagues) as a launching pad to a follow up story on opinion. Her blog is also a great place for public debate.
- In addition, the blog has been a great tool for Hobbs and her partner, Kent Fischer, to get tips from DISD employees.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- Ortiz wins this award again for his fantastic Blog Back feature. It’s a feature that every beat blogger should seriously consider adopting ASAP.
- Let’s look at the benefits of this feature. It doesn’t take a lot of time to produce, it’s a popular feature with users that elicits comments and it generates a sizable traffic boost to old content that is linked to. Plus, it recognizes strong reader comments and encourages more. Many journalists complain that allowing user comments is a mistake because most of them are banal or hateful or whatever. But when a beat reporter acknowledges strong comments, it encourages every commentator to rise his game.
- Also, journalists who read and respond to users tend to get much better comments on their blogs in the first place. It’s all about taking responsibility for your community. Either you’re a community builder or a destroyer. These three Leaderboard recipients are community builders.
This week we examine some new ways to get people talking.
You’ll see some familiar faces and a new one. All three are beat bloggers worth flowingly on a daily basis. They have so many lessons to teach us all.
We tackle cultivating communities and the wisdom of the crowd this week. Keep sending those nominees in!
Jon Ortiz | Sacramento Bee
- Ortiz recently launched a cool new feature, “blog backs.” It’s a great feature to spur better communication and conversations with users.
- This is how Ortiz describes blog backs: “review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.”
- He takes good comments from users, elevates them and then responds to them. He also links back to the original post that spurred each comment.
- This feature is a bit like hoisting comments. But the added twist of responding to and clarifying users comments makes this a much richer feature.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Krebs runs the Security Fix blog. It’s a fantastic computer security beat blog. Almost any beat can benefit from the wisdom of the crowd, but a beat like computer security can really benefit from that wisdom. Slashdot has proven over the years that it takes a community of computer and technology experts and geeks to accurately understand many computer and technology topics.
- Krebs deserves making the Leaderboard for his work on exposing a U.S. Web hosting firm, McColo Corp., that security experts said was responsible for more than 75% of global junk mail. But this nomination goes beyond that.
- Because Krebs has cultivated a strong community, he is able to get first-hand accounts from users about how their network spam has dropped dramatically. Krebs and his community can tell a much richer portrait of this and other stories than either could do alone.
- Krebs has created a community of knowledgeable users that can help him report and share links and information with each other. He mixes it up in the comments after his posts with users and often provides more information and links. There are some really great conversations going on Security Fix.
Monica Guzman | Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- Guzman is one of the best in the business when it comes to cultivating a community. She had two nominees this week for the Leaderboard.
- This post (“Should civil rights be up for popular vote?“) probably didn’t take Guzman a lot of time to create, but it accomplishes two things. First, it links to interesting content from the Post-Intelligencer that has already been created and drives to traffic to that content. Second, it has been a major conversation starter. Proposition 8 has been a hot-button issue around the country.
- Her other nominee, “Spare some change for Starbucks?” is another fantastic way to get people talking and consuming more Post-Intelligencer content. This post was spurred by a story that said Starbucks’ profits dropped 97 percent, reader reaction to that story and a witty editorial cartoon. She used those three to get people talking some more. Part of cultivating a community is knowing what gets people talking.