November 30, 2009

Progress in Show-Your-Work

Check out Story Lab — a show-your-work (aka. meta-reporting) project of the Washington Post. Here’s what Marc Fisher, enterprise editor for local news, had to say about it in an interview on Nieman Storyboard:

Story Lab is a way for us to enter the world of crowdsourcing and also lift the veil on the way we do journalism, opening up a window onto reporting and why some stories work and others don’t.

It’s an interactive place where readers can help us formulate stories at every stage, from conception to publication. Also a place where we can show readers how the sausage is made and also give them a place to discuss with us some of the ethical and logistical issues in journalism.

We’re hoping to demystify the work of a big, sometimes-anonymous institution and give readers a way to connect with the people who report and write the news.

I like the idea of this. While I certainly think meta-reporting can and should be employed in print, audio, and video, the internet is all about this kind of interactivity and transparency.

Question: Why was this not being done in, say, 2001?

Nieman’s response:

There’s not much yet to judge the site on. They’ve made some nice choices for visitors looking for good reading (especially Neely Tucker’s four-star profile of the quirky genius Edward Jones) and posted an initial call for input on a tattoo story assigned to Steve Hendrix.

In the long run, however, the Lab setup could provide insight into storytelling, from ethics to structure, and allow for a kind of open-endedness that lets stories evolve or continue in unexpected ways. My sense is that that its success will depend on how aggressively Post reporters work to engage readers via new channels (the brief profile of contributor Paul Schwartzman says “he does not tweet”), and the degree to which visitors want not only to know how the process works but also to dive into sausage-making themselves.

I’ll be interested to see how this works. Meta-reporting has not been something journalists have embraced in the past. Watch-dogging is about the other guys, you see.

I’m starting a new section on the sidebar called New Journalism. Suggest links, please!

One Response

  1. Tim 

    Great move by WaPo! Thanks for pointing this out for us, Andy!