Consumer reporting: finally

The Gazette’s Roberto Rocha (who is now giving free publicity to reviewing gadgets sent to him) made a vague statement about getting people involved in his reporting. Apparently the result is a new consumer rights segment called “Your Call Is Important To Us”.

It’s about time the Gazette gets back to reporting on customer service disasters. For that at least they deserve credit.

But his description of its innovativeness has me worried:

We say it’s innovative because it breaks the traditional paradigm of reporting. Rather than it being an in-house production of a reporter’s own research, it invites readers to take part in its creation.

His next paragraph basically sums up what this means:

We want you to help us write this series.

Perhaps I missed something in reading the blog post, but I don’t see anything innovative here. People providing newspapers with stories about how they got screwed over by The Man is hardly new. In fact, it’s how this stuff has been done for decades. There’s nothing “wiki” about it.

Unless the plan involves readers editing the stories collaboratively, I think it comes down to someone either misunderstanding what wiki is all about or overhyping a simple newspaper series by employing Web 2.0 buzzwords.

We’ll see which when the series is launched on Saturday.

3 thoughts on “Consumer reporting: finally

  1. Roberto Rocha

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve been getting a few comments already challenging this series’ claim as a wiki, but take a look: I never actually describe it as a wiki, nor do I pretend it’s one.

    A newspaper article cannot be a true wiki, since it must pass through the time-tested process of editorial oversight in a short time. But what it can do is depart a little bit from the traditional formula.

    You know what a newspaper article’s life cycle looks like:
    1. Research facts
    2. Get differing voices for balance
    3. Print article
    4. Get some feedback from readers, which usually die in the reporter’s inbox, unless they become letters to the editor.

    Well, what if we tweaked this a bit, using the flexibility afforded by the web:
    1. Research facts
    2. Invite readers to add to those facts and comment on them during research phase
    3. Publish updates on findings
    4. Get feedback, and include this feedback in future updates.
    5. Publish a story that has gone through several levels of reader input.

    You see where we’re getting at here?

    We’re very excited about the possibilities of this project. Will it be a journalism blockbuster? Who knows? But we’re experimenting with something new that we hope will get readers engaged.

    Reply
  2. Fagstein Post author

    I’m starting to see a bit better where you’re getting at. Like I said, it’s good that the paper is getting back into reporting consumer issues, and your plan sounds like a good one (though invoking the name Wikipedia may have left the wrong impression in the minds of some of your readers).

    Don’t let the cynical ramblings of us know-it-alls stop you.

    Reply
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