Their most famous product may be the Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, but in the future we may come to know Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) as the innovators that launched “Public Insight Journalism.”
MPR, like others from earlier posts such as Gannett and the BBC, are developing new ways to design, produce and distribute news with the active participation of their news consumers.
Why are these news organizations inviting their customers to participate? MPR believes it solves an old problem of capacity and sourcing:
Our journalists are always trying to find the best sources and the best information to tell their stories. But there are few of us, and so many people who have good information and insight that they have acquired through their jobs, hobbies, contacts, friendships or life experiences.
Until recently, we have lacked the ability to ask many people to share what they know with us on any given story. Now, e-mail and the Internet have enabled us to quickly and efficiently communicate with hundreds, even thousands of people, within minutes. Those same technologies also enable us to keep track of information in a central database that we can build into a powerful storehouse of intelligence.
To date thousands of listeners have signed up to participate to help make the MPR news product better. Unlike the Wired/Assignment Zero magazine attempt to co-create news with its readers which was not as successful, MPR has a clear process for engagement throughout the news development process to ensure quality and accuracy that marries the best traditions of professional journalism with the real-time access to expertise and knowledge of their audience.
- They use the knowledge, observations and expertise people provide to inform their news coverage.
- A newsroom analyst will take the information, connect it with other relevant intelligence and pass it on to the appropriate reporters and editors. They do not share any personal information received outside of the MPR newsroom and never quote anyone on the air or online without first getting their permission.
- Reporters and editors decide what information they deem relevant or important. If the information you provide interests them, they will follow up with an e-mail or a phone call.
MPR, BBC, and Gannett are demonstrating the potential of open innovation and the importance of adapting old production models to permit more creative self-expression for the consumer and the news organization while delivering product quality of the highest caliber. It is also a customer intimacy strategy that keeps the consumer actively engaged in the product they consume.