Great Use of Community

Embedded Journalists File Online

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U.S. reporters embedded with troops in the Gulf have started filing online and in print. But that's not all they're doing. Christian Science Monitor Online Producer Ben Arnoldy has been answering questions online that readers e-mail in. And The Washington Post's Richard Leiby spoke to washingtonpost.com's Suzette McLone via satellite phone from Kuwait City and the site posted the video online.

Projo.com on The Station Fire

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The Providence Journal's Web site has done such a good job covering the fatal fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island that it's hard to know what to single out. In addition to continually updating the site with staff-written stories on the latest developments from the moment the news first broke early Friday morning, the site has published a slew of impressive online-only features, including: A first-person account from a survivor searching for his mystery savior; an online memorial for readers to post condolences for the fire victims; five flash slide shows and video from a partner TV site; useful information such as victim and memorial details; and much, much more. As a public service, the site has not only been running a Weblog of online reaction to the fire by staff blogger Sheil...

Projo.com: Stormin' Through

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As snow blanketed the East Coast, storm coverage blanketed East Coast news sites. One site that stood out was The Providence Journal's, Projo.com, which packed in comprehensive reporting with information on local closings, parking bans, travel schedules and how to cope with the snow. The site was also wonderfully interactive with its community, publishing a bulletin board for folks to share their snow storm stories; a spot Storm Blog reporting notes from around the state; and a slide show of reader photos. The last two features mentioned highlight two promising approaches to covering breaking news online that are being used increasingly -- spot Weblogs, such as Florida Today's Columbia landing journal and Spaceflight Now's Mission Status Center; and reader slide shows, such as this fr...

Building Databases of Sources

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Under a new program through the Associated Press Managing Editors' (APME) National Credibility Roundtables, dozens of papers are compiling e-mail addresses of readers and sources that can be used for any number of stories and opinion reports. The 17,617-circulation Norfolk Daily News, for example, so far has 150 names and addresses in a database of people agreed to respond to e-mail inquiries at a moment's notice. Ken Sands, managing editor for online and new media at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., instituted the idea at his paper in 1997 and has been training editors at many papers involved in the APME program. Sands says APME hopes to build the effort into a national database that newspapers can share. "There could be a national story written about an issue with comments from 5...

Reader Slide Shows

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The Charlotte Observer's Web site, Charlotte.com, has been publishing reader-generated slide shows during big local weather stories. "One of our Charlotte.com traditions is getting readers involved in telling the story of major weather events," the site wrote during an unusual January snow storm. "Since schools are closed today, and many of you won't be going anywhere, get out your digital cameras and send us snow photos: your backyard, your stuck car, your dog, your kids, etc." The site then published two slide shows using the best ones (here and here). The photos are by no means professional quality -- but they offer a fresh, unique perspective on the storms' impact. And they have the homey-feeling of a family photo album, except that in this case the family is one of Observer readers.

News From the Readers' Perspective

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Recognizing the value of tapping the news consumer community, BBC News has launched a new feature that will showcase reader photography. "BBC News Online wants to report the world from your perspective," the site says in a note to readers. "And the digital revolution will help us to do that....So if you think you have a picture worth looking at, if you found yourself in the right place at the right time, send it to BBC News Online." The site's picture editor will choose the best each week and publish them on this page every Friday. This could provide a great and popular feature for readers -- not to mention setting up a handy way to get exclusive photos when major news breaks. Here are the slide shows BBC Online published when millions of people marched worldwide in February 2003 in protes...

Columbia's Last Flight Online

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Last weekend's shuttle disaster unfolded as much online as it did on radio or television. A group of space enthusiasts learned of the trouble in real time by listening to mission control via NASA TV's Webcast. They and other trackers shared their thoughts online in many forums, including a discussion board for shuttle buffs on the Free Republic Web site. The New York Times has culled some of the more interesting comments into a compelling narrative; you can read the full discussion on Free Republic.

State of the Union: Instant Analysis

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As soon as President Bush finished his State of the Union, anchors and media pundits immediately began analyzing it. But readers of WashingtonPost.com got to do more than just hear talking heads talk -- they got to discuss the speech and the Democrats' response with Washington Post Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser. "I thought the strength of print journalism was it could be reasoned and deliberate compared to television news," asked one reader from Alexandria, Va. "Are you comfortable popping off with 'instant analysis?' Or is this just for fun?" Kaiser replied, "A painfully good question. Watch how I do this to see an essentially uncomfortable instant analyst trying to avoid the pitfalls of the art form. Will he fall off the high wire? Probably. I like the repartee with readers the best....