Tag Archives: Crowdsourcing

How crowdsourcing could aid ESPN’s sign-stealing investigation

ESPN hit a double with its investigation of alleged sign-stealing by the Toronto Blue Jays. A little bit of crowdsourcing could now drive it home.

A short summary of the investigation: ESPN talked to four visiting players who claimed to see a man relaying information about upcoming pitches to Blue Jays batters, which is a big ethical no-no in baseball. The man, the players claimed, sat in the outfield seats in the players’ direct eyesight, wore white, and raised his hands above his head whenever an off-speed pitch was coming. This knowledge would give the batters a significant advantage.

Considering four players claimed to see the same thing, ESPN should be able to pinpoint which section the man-in-white sat in, maybe even the approximate row. But they don’t have any other evidence the man exists. Putting aside some statistical shortcomings of the allegations, proving that this man exists would be the most significant step in the investigation.

This is where investigations can become social. The proof, if it exists, is out there in the crowd. A man who constantly raises his hands above his head – and only when the home team is batting – would be highly unusual and noticeable behavior; surely someone in his section would have noticed if he were doing it all year. And people take a lot of pictures of themselves and their surroundings at baseball games; surely one would have the man-in-white in the background.

ESPN could have ended its story with a call to action for its millions of readers. They could say: We’re looking for people who sat in Section XXX. Help us find them.

There are natural ways to verify these accounts: The scoreboard in the background aligning with the game the reader claimed to attend. Pictures of ticket stubs. Checking the metadata of the photos. If a picture turns up, you ask your readers again: Help us identify this man. Once the man is identified, investigative reporters will do what investigative reporters do.

All this would require is a willingness to expand your source pool by asking readers for help. Let’s make it part of the automatic process.

Quora for journalists: Daydreaming on its potential

The big buzz today was on Quora, a question-and-answer website that’s getting all the requisite “It’s going to replace Twitter/blogs/unsliced bread” hype. As with any bit of Mashable-fueled hysteria, it’s worth examining to see not what you can do here, but what you can’t do as well anywhere else.

That said, it appears on first glance to be an exciting tool. I feel much the same as when I discovered Storify: A lot of potential here, but let’s not move in together just yet.

Here are some ways journalists can potentially use Quora. Some of these ideas, admittedly, go against what Quora seems to want to be. Frankly, I don’t care. These would be valuable uses for all participants, so there’s no reason to not explore them.

1) Crowdsourcing elements of your reporting. This is the obvious one. New on a municipal beat and wondering why it took the developer three years to get his hotel approved? Ask your readers and gadflies, and they’ll inform each other on the background as they simultaneously inform you.

On Quora, Chris Amico offered the example:

Getting actual answers (possibly from actual experts). For example, if I were writing a story on startups at SXSW, I might source What is the process involved in launching a startup at SXSW?.

What I like here is that when a reporter starts a topic here, users won’t be participating for the sake of informing the reporter, which is how crowdsourcing is most commonly (and sub-optimally) conducted, especially over Twitter. People will be participating here because it’s a productive conversation in itself, and the reporter simply gets to share in the benefits of what he or she started.

2) Ranking submissions. At TBD, we recently asked people to suggest New Years resolutions for Metro. We used All Our Ideas to have participants rank the submissions, and it worked pretty well.

If we did it again, Quora might allow participants to more directly rank the ideas by voting them up and down, while having the space to further elaborate on their ideas. It feels like a cleaner experience to me.

3) A community-written story. Start with the question: “What was your experience at The Rally for Sanity?” Or: “What did you think of the Courtney Love concert at the 9:30 Club last night?” Or: “What’s the best medium-priced place to take a date near Union Station?”

It says right in the directions at Quora that you’re not supposed to do this. Twitter also told us initially that we were supposed to tell it what we were doing right then. My hope is that Quora will loosen its tie a bit and this kind of valuable discussion will become part of the community.

The ranking system elevates this over the typical comment thread. Congrats to the blogs/news sites that have effective ranking systems, but most don’t.

That’ll get the ball rolling. What else ya got? Answer here or at the topic I started on Quora. There will likely be a lot of attention on the crowdsourcing aspect, but that’s the easy one. Let’s think past that.

UPDATE 12:20 p.m. 1/5/11: Lots of good ideas in that Quora topic, but I especially loved Joy Mayer‘s response:

There are some great answers here, and all of them focus on how Quora can benefit reporters. What about how reporters can benefit the Quora community? Reporters are subject matter experts who could do a lot of good shedding light on their topics. What if reporters were to give a little back by devoting some time to answers? Relationships go two ways.

I imagine smaller communities will develop within Quora. What if reporters fostered a group of people interested in their specific geographic community, and worked to recruit and sustain those members? It could become a hub of information about the community. If reporters are doing that on behalf of a news organization (no matter the size), they’re becoming part of the fabric of an information culture, whether it’s on their own site or not.

TBD Community Hosts: What we do, sort of

It’s difficult to explain that I’m not exactly a reporter anymore, but I am still a journalist. When I tell people I’m one of TBD‘s community hosts, the most common reaction is: “Oh…what’s that?” Fair question, and the four of us are aren’t great at answering it.

If I only have one sentence, I usually say that “we get real people involved in the news process.” It’s a wildly inadequate description, and people who are actually listening know it.

So instead of talking vaguely about engaging, crowdsourcing, blogging, recruiting and reporting, I thought I’d let you in one the last three days on the job. I can’t say these are standard days, because there really aren’t any standard days and weekends are unusual, but this’ll at least give you a cross-section of what we do.


This is a strange day for me: I’ve got an actual reporting assignment during the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear. I wasn’t hired to be a traditional reporter, but on big days like this our job descriptions become irrelevant. No boxes here, and I used to be a newspaper reporter so I can still occasionally wield a notepad.

I polled 75 rally-goers and took a few hundred photos before going home. Had my Internet and/or phone connections worked, I would have been tweeting and twitpic-ing the hell out of the rally. I upload my photos to TBD’s Flickr gallery, post my story and I’m done. Our full-time reporters do way more interesting work than this.


Shortly before noon, I create a CoverItLive event for a live chat during the Washington Redskins game. I had arranged for three bloggers in our TBD Community Network to lead the chat, and I got them set up to participate then promoted it on Twitter and on our homepage.

About 15 minutes before kickoff, I realize it’d be pretty awesome to curate tweets from Redskins fans during the game using Storify. I could show the emotional swings by capturing how fans were feeling minute-by-minute after every twist and turn in the game, I thought.

So during the game I constantly searched Twitter for the most interesting tweets and wrote a narrative to tie them together, all the while offering game analysis in the live chat while approving user comments. About 15 minutes after the game ended, I posted the result of that Storify effort.

For the rest of the night, I monitored our TBD Community Network blogs for new posts about the Redskins game. When I found one, I’d pitch them to our web producer so they’d land on TBD’s homepage. And I wrote a blog post inviting fans to weigh in on a pressing question for the Redskins.


Almost immediately after waking up, I again searched for new Redskins posts from our network, and promoted their latest posts on our sports page.

At 10 a.m., I appeared live on one of our television shows, NewsTalk with Bruce DuPuyt, to discuss my weekend coverage of the rally.

Immediately afterward I set up a CoverItLive chat with Mike Jones, our Redskins beat writer, and began promoting it on the site and Twitter. I moderate the chat, approving questions and asking follow-ups to reader questions.

When news broke that Randy Moss had been waived by the Minnesota Vikings, it couldn’t have been more than five to 10 minutes before I had a blog post up asking whether the Redskins should try to pick him up. I added a twtpoll to the post, then tweeted the link from @bydanielvictor, @tbdscrum and @tbd.

While keeping an eye on that conversation, I took my aggregation shift. This largely consists of reading through posts from our 196 network members, looking to see if I can geotag the posts with a specific neighborhood, town or zip code, writing or editing a teaser, making sure the headline is in proper style, and posting it to the site.

During that shift, I also sent out e-mails to two blogs that cover the Washington Capitals, introducing myself to folks I’d like to join the network.

…The point of this all is to say: We do a lot of different things, and every day is different. Today, for example, we’ll be plotting user reports about polling problems on a Crowdmap, and monitoring a Foursquare experiment spearheaded by our social media editor Mandy Jenkins. On Saturday, fellow community host Nathasha Lim monitored a Twitter account for out-of-towners to ask questions about DC, while community host Lisa Rowan led a Halloween costume contest. Most days are filled with a lot more recruiting new blogs for the network, and responding to questions or comments from our existing members – especially senior community host Jeff Sonderman, who is blessed/cursed with the coding skills to field the more technical questions. (And it’s all under the guidance of Steve Buttry, our community engagement team’s fearless leader.)

So if you have any ideas how to better condense that all into a sentence, I’d really love to hear it. It’d be great to see fewer confused looks.

How I want to redefine my role, and the reader’s role, in the newspaper

Once the equipment arrives, I’ll be starting in a new position at The Patriot-News as a mobile journalist, or mojo.

What that means is, correctly, still to be determined. We do know it’ll involve video, still photography, print stories and a lot of updates for the Web. We know I’ll have a laptop and an aircard, will file most of my stories from my car and coffee shops, and will aim to be in the office as little as possible.

What we don’t know is exactly what stories I’ll be covering. I’ll be one of three mojos, and the other two will focus more on being first responders to fires, shootings and other cops-related happenings.

Which leaves an interesting question: What exactly is my role going to be? Why am I better off as a mojo instead of going back to the newsroom in a more traditional role?

To me, the opportunity to take this blank piece of paper and figure out the answer is tremendously exciting. It’s an opportunity to discover a more efficient reporting model that pumps great stories into the print edition, while simultaneously feeding my need to discover building blocks to future news models.

And I think I’ve got an idea that will do both.

If I can sell my editors on the concept, I would be the author and community manager of a new blog. My stated goal will be to have at least one originally reported story per day, usually some combination of text, photography and video. Sometimes it’ll be a three-minute video with 200-word text, sometimes it could be a great photo with 800-word text.

The stories I’m looking for are next-door slices of life that are usually the first to go because of shrinking staffs. A new museum exhibit, an innovative classroom project, a personality profile, a soup kitchen gearing up for a busy time, a little-known hiking trail, a new business opening, etc.

If you check this new blog every day, you will always learn about one new wrinkle in your community. That’s a wonderful promise for a news site to make.

That’s the content. But the fun part is who decides what that content will be.

Every day I’ll solicit story ideas from my readers via comments on the blog. At the end of the day, I’ll post their story ideas in poll form, and my readers will vote on which one they want me to cover tomorrow. And that’s the one I’ll do.

I’ll no longer have an assignment editor. The collective community will be my assignment editor. What a strange concept: Asking our readers what stories they want, then giving it to them! Yes, we’d maintain veto power for outlandish stories (write about why councilman Jones sux!!!) and needs of the newsroom (if no one’s around to cover a court case), but we’d try to limit that as much as possible.

By forcing myself to write one story per day, I’m creating a reliable pipeline of stories that can be repurposed for the print product (this is where you should pay attention, my skeptical editors). No matter how cool it may be on the Web, and whether or not it succeeds in being an important step in our future, at the very least it’s producing a lot of stories for print in an efficient way.

I could also produce some great long-term enterprise through this, while packaging it in a completely new way. I think of a story I did last year in which I occasionally followed a four-year-old around for six months while I documented her transition to a new school. What if I took a video each time, wrote a short story each time, teased to the long-form print story that would eventually come each time? It’d be great to watch the process, and would build a lot of anticipation for the final project.

As for the form of the blog: Very conversational, with a persistent focus on cultivating user participation. Lots of voice, personality, maybe even wit if I’m lucky. Every day I would also offer a bevy of links: The day’s best content from The Patriot-News, interesting posts from local bloggers, thought-provoking material from around the Web, maybe even some funny videos. It would rely on a totally new skill set for journalists, one in which I practiced somewhat at my now-defunct Ning site, the Hershey Home. It’s a skill set I’d love to have a part in figuring out and teaching to other journalists.

For the reader, it’s an unprecedented amount of access to the pages of The Patriot-News. If you called up now and told an editor about the science project your child is doing, you probably wouldn’t get very far. Make that same pitch to the readers of this blog, and make it a convincing argument, and that project will be in the paper. It could be a rewarding feeling to think that you’re actually playing a legitimate part in the news.

For journalism’s future, the goal of this blog will be to foster a self-sustaining, invested community around it. We’ll implement rules aimed on creating that culture (which could be several blog posts in itself), both through the level of conversation and making clear what kind of story pitches we’re looking for.

Community-building is a skill we must, must, must master in many forms, and we’re not spending enough time practicing it. Even if it doesn’t succeed, it’s the kind of trial balloon we need to be sending out, and it comes at little to no cost.

I have my own reservations about the idea, of course, but I’d really like to hear what you all think. if you’ve heard of similar ideas at other papers, if you have any recommendations for improvement, if you’ve found any trouble spots, etc., anything would be appreciated. I’d like to allow for a day or two of comments before I e-mail a link to this entry to my editors, so your feedback could be very valuable.

UPDATE 1: I forgot to make one important point: By virtue of me taking my time to do these slice-of-life stories, that allows all the other reporters to pass their slice-of-life stories off to me and opens up time for them to do the meaty enterprise that we really need to be producing.

UPDATE 2: Wondering if it would be a trademark infringement to use the tagline: “You Decide. We Report.”

UPDATE 3: Jeff McCloud makes an important point in the comments section about ceding editorial control. He writes:

I like the idea. I just wouldn’t want to be framed in to always writing what the majority of your blog readers want. I think you need to reserve your news judgment for yourself and your editors. Of course, the rub is in the balance of that and making readers happy to know they are participating. The rub is also in making sure that readers feel they don’t “own” you and your assignments.

And I respond:

Jeff, your point about reserving news judgment is an important one and probably the trickiest thing to balance here. I think that’s likely to be developed as the process goes along. My feeling, though, is that editorial judgment is best exercised not by yanking control from the readers after it’s promised to them, but by story placement in the physical newspaper. If my readers led me to a great story, editors will see that and put it on A1. Total waste of time, and it’s relegated to B10. I just fear nullifying the entire concept if we say “You have total control…unless we don’t like your idea.” That’s kind of what the current model says.

Now if it turns out all the story ideas are bad, bad, bad, we’ll re-evaluate. As of now, I’ve got faith in the readers.

UPDATE 4: Colin Lenton weighs in via Twitter:

@bydanielvictor nice that youre excited for new role, but why do the work of 3 by yourself? won’t you diminish quality by doing too much?

And I respond:

@colinmlenton Time is probably 2nd-biggest concern. I don’t think it has to be the work of 3, though. I’ll know if I’m stretching too thin.

Colin also expanded his thoughts in the comments section, wondering whether this is the best use of staff time.

UPDATE 5: Via the comments, Daniel Klotz wonders:

I’d like to know more about how you would plan to handle more “hard news,” political, and investigative stories. You’ll get people asking you to report on things they believe are under-reported, and often those stories have a (local) political bent. How will you proceed if that’s what you’re given, rather than a more human-interest topic?

So I say:

I think my moderation skills will have to make it clear that it’s not what we’re looking for. I anticipate cutting-and-pasting the same kind of disclaimer on each entry, clearly stating the purpose of what I’m doing and what stories we’re searching for. And if I’m going to put it in poll form, there’s a little bit of active selection involved on my end.

UPDATE 6: I’ve had to work on some of those pesky newspaper stories today, so I haven’t had a chance to go through most of today’s comments to respond or highlight them. But Meranda Watling offers this interesting idea via Gmail chat:

I can’t remember if I read it somewhere or someone told me but I remember hearing about an editor who would hold office hours kind of at a local cafe.

You could try something like that as a complement.
Posting well you’ll be in certain areas and encouraging readers to come visit, tip you off to ideas.

Defending the underlying principles of crowdsourcing

“One thing we don’t get with online sourcing : verification of the source. When you have a nickname and a maybe-fake email addy, how can you resist manipulation and ill will ? Are virtual witnesses as valuable as real ones ? How can we backup our stories with sources we can’t really identify ?”

— Someone named “JPF” on my first post about crowdsourcing

This is a point worth fleshing out. And it doesn’t bother me that I don’t know who JPF is because he/she provides valuable content.

There have been some legitimate arguments against some forms of crowdsourcing. Many have been expressed in the comments on my last two entries (Part 1 made the argument that crowdsourcing can help ease the pain of shrinking staffs, Part 2 gave some specific examples in which it can be easily, immediately and responsibly deployed.)

Virtual, pseudonymous sources are not equal to verified ones. No one has ever disputed that.

But the skeptics of crowdsourcing tend to ignore what those sources do ably provide, overstate the likelihood and significance of vandalism, and understate the value of when it’s done well.

There also seems to be a fear, which JPF expressed, that it will totally replace standard reporting practices. Nope. I’m just talking about replacing specific, wasteful forms of reporting that no reporter will miss: Traffic, gas prices, Man on the Street stories. I’m not turning over council coverage to the crowd.

Generally, the crowdsourcing skeptics tend to go directly to the council scenario and other forms of hard news. So let’s refocus the argument on the more benign uses of the crowd and show why the newsroom and the community benefit.

Legitimate source verification won’t suffer: We must remember that every deployment of crowdsourcing requires varying levels of source verification, just like the journalism we do now.

Let’s take your average Man on the Street story. You’re a reporter, and you approached a man at Riverfront Park to ask him about his opinion on the economy. You ask him for his name and his hometown, and he gives it to you.

How often does the reporter ask to see his driver’s license? How often does the reporter check that against the phone book or LexisNexis once back in the office?

For most reporters: Not very often. That’s rightly because there’s a significant gap between a man on the street and someone e-mailing you leaks and claiming to be an insider at a company.

When it comes to sources that obviously need to be strictly verified: Do you really know any reporters dumb enough to use information from an anonymous person just because it was read on the Internet? Really? Think about the mindless cariacature of a reporter that would be.

No one is talking about compromising core journalistic values. To JPF’s point: No one is backing up significant stories with sources we can’t identify. That won’t happen and it’s not part of the discussion.

Crowdsourcing creates a better product: But remember: Only in specific areas where the crowd’s collective wisdom far trumps the newsroom’s ability to make phone calls and drive out to scenes.

Part 2 covers this in-depth. I understand there will be some hesitations on gas prices and MOTS stories, but I’m trying to anticipate the opposite arguments on crowdsourced traffic updates and I just can’t conjure any up. The information will be far more current than we typically get now, and it’ll be done with zero staff input.

Crowdsourcing saves the newsroom time: A good MOTS story can take up a reporter’s entire day. No longer would a reporter have to call each individual gas station for a weekly roundup.

We don’t have as much time as we used to before the attrition and buyouts and layoffs. It’s an absolute necessity to find areas of greater efficiency, or core community stories and significant enterprise will continue to evaporate at the expense of some easily outsourced stories.

Crowdsourcing gives the readers a small sense of satisfaction: Some will get a thrill out of knowing they helped people save time by avoiding I-83 because of that ill-timed construction.

Crowdsourcing is already happening, you just haven’t been calling it that: At my paper, The Fan Line is one of the most popular features. It allows people to anonymously call in and share their thoughts on the sports news of the day.

It’s awful. It’s wonderful. You can’t look away. It even caused a local reader to start up a blog criticizing and mocking the people who call in.

When I interned for The Wichita Eagle, they had a similar feature about news that ran daily on the Opinion page. I’m sure there are countless others around the country that have figured out that people love reading candid thoughts, and they’re not concerned about where they come from.

Crowdsourcing is fundamental to the Web: And haven’t you heard? The Web is kinda important these days.

It’s part of the participatory culture that people expect out of the Web. Our we-tell-you-and-you-listen model that’s served us well since the printing press is crumbling.

Adjusting to the Web isn’t just a matter of shoveling our fantastic material so our loyal readers can experience it on their monitors. It requires a shift in all of our processes, including the new gathering process.

Easy, immediate, responsible deployments of crowdsourcing

(This is Part 2 on my series about crowdsourcing. Part 1 argued the crowd can help ease the pain of a shrinking staff, and Part 3 defended the underlying principles of crowdsourcing.)

I understand that crowdsourcing is a scary word to a lot of journalists. So I thought it would help to offer some specific examples of how it could be utilized.

When you read this, keep in mind: Staff resources are very limited, and becoming more limited by the day. We’re searching for newsroom inefficiencies, old practices we can cut or change that will open up time for the core enterprise that will keep news organizations relevant.

Something’s gotta give, and I’ve targeted these traditional story genres as areas that can be overhauled by utilizing the crowd:

Traffic: When big traffic events happen, the local Twitter community goes into action without anyone commanding it to.

About a month ago, the search for bank robbers shut down a major interstate, and the local Twitter users were sharing back-road detours. I told Twitter when I was on a jammed-up North Front Street, and one of the users said she took a different route because of it.

This is an outfit of several dozen. Now imagine if an army of the entire community could contribute to something like this, even if they’re not on Twitter. Imagine if any Pennlive reader stuck in a traffic jam could send a single text message, and alert everyone in the community to stay away from I-81 northbound.

You’d get immediate updates from every corner of the region, and you wouldn’t need to invest staff resources into calling busy police dispatchers who are just as far away from the scene and often have old information.

It could be presented in its own area, with the standard disclaimers that it’s provided by the community and not verified by The Patriot-News. And no one would care about that disclaimer, and they’d probably check it often before driving home for the day.

The risk of vandalism is minimal, you’re saving staff time, and producing a much more comprehensive product than the staff can anyway.

Gas prices: The argument I hear often is that station owners would provide false information on competitors.

But taking that scenario just a few minutes or hours down the road shows the wonderful self-policing nature of crowdsourcing. That competitor would see the false price, then offer the real price. He’d then keep an eye on the price of his station. The site could ban the fraudulent user.

I tend to think that kind of vandalism would be far more rare than the skeptics fear. But regardless of the outcome of that scenario, you’d have to consider it an outlier. Sites like GasBuddy have thrived on this model.

And as we’re searching for our own inefficiencies as staffs get smaller, the more important question to ask is: Does the slight risk of vandalism outweigh what would be a more comprehensive product for the readers, and the elimination of a time-consuming task for reporters? It’s a minimal price I’m willing to pay as we’re forced to make tough decisions.

Man on the Street: Reporters complain about these stories more than any others. And with good reason. You can’t get a mathematically representative sample and it often takes a lot of interviews to get valuable insight.

That’s a lot of staff time spent on stories that don’t add much more than the comment thread below a story on Pennlive. There’s a lot of static in those comment threads, but you’ll also occasionally find some valuable insight.

No, you don’t know the identity of hbgmom233. But when you want opinions on how Penn State will fare in the Rose Bowl, no one cares who she is except maybe journalists.

Indeed, surrounding her comments with background on her PSU fandom and follow-up questions is better than just reprinting her comments. But again, the real question is: Does that extra context outweigh a greater quantity of opinions and a considerable expenditure of time by a reporter?

Notice that this list doesn’t include council meetings. I’m a crowdsourcing centrist — I’m not sold on a responsible way to crowdsource those without making too many journalistic compromises.

We may get to that point, but I list these three now as immediate examples of ways the crowd can be responsibly deployed. These are very minimal compromises, and it just takes a cost/benefit analysis to start saving reporters’ time and producing a better product.

Crowdsourcing can lead newspapers through buyout blues

(This is Part 1 of a three-part series on crowdsourcing. Read Part 2 for specific examples of ways the crowd can be responsibly deployed, and Part 3 for a defense of the underlying principles of it.)

Last week, my newspaper said goodbye to nine journalists, a combined 227 years of experience between them.

In the coming weeks, we’ll say goodbye to another load. By January 1, the reporters in the cubicles to the front, left and right of me will be gone.

As the entire newsroom gathered around the city desk to pay tribute to the departed, you couldn’t help but be struck by how much more real, how much more human it all seems when it hits your own newsroom. We’re fortunate that these nine were all bought out, not laid off, so for them it seemed an awkward mix of emotions that falls somewhere between sadness, exhaustion and relief.

Until now, those of us Left Behind just had to shoulder through the nagging pain of attrition, responsibilities piled upon responsibilities. Now, with an estimated 25 percent of the newsroom leaving, it’s become unavoidably clear that stacking can no longer be part of our newsroom model. Not when we’re losing this many people; no one can stack that high.

The only possibility is to drastically cut open and operate on every practice we know. Eliminate inefficiencies. Find new opportunities of strength. Sacrifice the sacred cows that don’t deserve to be sacred anymore. Refocus our priorities.

I’m annoyingly stubborn in believing that despite the devastating cuts, The Patriot-News can redefine itself and serve the community better than it ever has.

It’s a simple formula: As the number of reporters decreases, the importance of efficient sourcing increases.

And it just so happens there’s a wildly efficient pool of sources just waiting for us to tap into it: It’s time for a wider embrace of crowdsourcing in its many forms. All it would require is a sledgehammer to the institutional arrogance rooted deeply in the newspaper industry.

There’s an active base of readers, even in central Pennsylvania, who would be perfectly willing to chip in when it comes to reporting traffic or gas prices. Given easy access to reporters, they like to share news tips.

It requires a newsroom-wide commitment that sees the benefit of turning over tasks to the community when it will open up time for reporters to spend on significant stories.

It requires a Web operation that doesn’t just shovel our content to the masses, but actively curates the information out there and promotes useful Web activity in the area.

For the resistant reporter, it requires an acknowledgment that reading a forum posting from DerryDynamo isn’t any different than talking to her after the board meeting or answering a phone call, a willingness to sift through the crap for the wealth of valuable information out there, and the ability to develop an online presence in all forms necessary.

And let’s get this straight: The buyouts get us nowhere closer to these goals. There’s a misconception out there that buyouts tend to filter out those who “don’t get the Web,” but that simplistic logic just didn’t bear out here. Among our losses are two journalists on Twitter, our best computer-assisted reporter, and a reporter who’s been blogging since long before it was fashionable. All of the journalists leaving are big losses for the community.

I hold tight to this annoying optimism because we have no choice but to consider this a turning point of some sort, so we might as well make it as positive as possible. Here’s hoping a culture change is very much a part of it.