On the Media Asks Listeners to ‘Be the Journalist’ With Web Tool

On The Media, the NPR podcast, is part media reporting, part commentary and part investigative journalism organization. And I’m not just saying that because the pledge drive is going on.

Sometimes they just fall into it. A few weeks ago, OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman and her family were detained “for hours” at the US- Canadian border. She produced a piece about the ordeal that you can listen to here. On the most recent show, they followed up with more questions for the Department of Homeland Security — questions that are still unanswered.

So, OTM produced an online tool for listeners to contact their representatives on the relevant oversight committees and “shed light on the DHS.” There are supplied questions and fields to use to report back directly to OTM. You can see, and use, the tool below.

Talk about crowd-sourcing the news. It’s not just that they created a tool for users to engage with them and their story — that’s the easy part. But the ethos behind the project is a good reminder that news organizations, or even media commentators, can harness digital apps and tools not only to encourage engagement and page views but to further their own mission and work with the new shapes journalism can take using technology. Host Brooke Gladstone wrote a manifesto for the show way back in 2004 that holds up over time as serious, useful insights for any news organization, not just a public radio one. Points like not limiting your scope and using everyone in the newsroom are part of that manifesto, and also good advice for digital first newsrooms.

We’ve all hit walls in our reporting — why not go beyond a hashtag to reach out to your audience for help? I’m waiting with bated breath to see if they get any answers by employing their listeners to hound their representatives and the DHS.

Has your newsroom crowdsourced their reporting? What do you think about tools like this one?