Resources Index

Go deep, reach out, play with form, promote participation. Just some of the best practices in this guide for journalism in the public service contextualized by the shifting media world.

Scan and Analysis of Best Practices in Digital Journalism In and Outside U.S. Public Broadcasting

In this report, researchers at American University’s Center for Social Media identify a set of best practices in digital new media journalism intended to guide planning and initiatives in this area specifically for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and more broadly for the Public Service Media community in the US. We offer an overview of the current journalism and public broadcasting environments, derived from a scan of recent reports and interviews with relevant experts, along with a set of identified best practices, bolstered with analysis of specific examples that could be replicated by public media producers…

Best practice categories identified:

  • Involve: Journalism projects are using digital platforms to serve and involve users by providing the information, motivation, and tools for the user to participate in current affairs debates and related online/offline communities.
  • Go deeper: News and public affairs outlets are taking advantage of digital platforms to add depth and context to coverage of breaking news, events, and issues. Digital journalism projects are also sustaining and expanding core public affairs specializations such as investigative reporting, international news, or science and environmental coverage—specialty beats that commercial news organizations are otherwise cutting.
  • Reach new and non-traditional publics: Digital platforms are making it possible for producers to engage with more focused networks of users who share common identities, problems, issues or interests, rather than following a model that dictates coverage that appeals to a mass audience. Importantly, this creates openings for informing and engaging minority, ethnic, and low-income publics that are often underserved by mainstream coverage—a core mission for public broadcasters. In turn, such perspectives and content can migrate to broader platforms, diversifying coverage and providing valuable context for more general constituencies.
  • Repurpose, remix, recycle: Repurposing existing content online can include shifting content from one platform to another, or the aggregation of existing news and data sources around particular issues. Such projects maximize user access to existing content and create new value and utility for users through smart curation.
  • Collaborate: Collaborative digital news and public affairs projects are being organized around shared issues, locations and user communities. These projects involve connections between different sorts of media outlets as well as related organizations, institutions, and publics.
  • Enable media literacy: Digital journalism is not just about effective use of technology or organizational restructuring. It also involves helping users to take advantage of the abundance of new media resources and choices, to become more frequent and more effective makers and users. This category includes examples of projects featuring news and media literacy, standards-setting and training to become citizen journalists.
  • Play with form to innovate and integrate new technologies: Digital journalism pioneers are innovating new formats, interfaces, and platforms for delivering news and information and for sponsoring audience engagement with public affairs. In some cases these piggyback on commercial open platforms and software; in others they leverage free open source software and related developer communities.
  • Promote political discussion and participation: Digital journalism sites are well poised to foster political conversations and civic engagement, whether they are election-centered or policy-centered, partisan or not. Political sites tend to encourage and even rely upon user comments that can sometimes turn into rigorous discussions that inspire people to take action. These sites also provide so-called “mobilizing information” on how to get involved, who to contact, and where to show up to participate or vote. Political conversations are also stimulated by government transparency initiatives.

We close this report by providing a discussion of issues of scale in applying best practices, and a recommendation of two areas for further study: emerging business models and impact measurement for digital journalism.”
Source: Center for Social Media

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