De Correspondent: Why we’re asking our 60,000 members what they know

At the Dutch news organization De Correspondent, journalists share story ideas with subscribers before they write them, so they can harvest community knowledge.

In the digital age, readers can be sources — if you give them the chance to share what they know.

At the Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent, they’ve learned that joining forces with their 60,000 paying members leads to richer, more grounded stories.

This interactive approach even leads to scoops that they would never have found on their own. Just last week they had breaking news on Shell. Turns out the oil giant was well aware of its own role in climate change back in 1986, and De Correspondent had the documents to prove it. Guess who helped them find the documents.

Their readers.

Now De Correspondent is sharing what they’ve learned about making reader knowledge visible in a more systematic way— both to publishers and to other readers. And how that’s helped them expand their network of sources, better their reporting, and enrich the conversations their work prompts.

Here are their five recommendations:

  1. Announce the stories you’re working on, using an external blog if need be, or with a screenshot of your Notes app on Twitter. Give readers the chance to contribute to your work while you’re still in the research stage.
  2. Find your readers. Share your calls for reader input with academics, experts in the field, NGOs and other organizations. Make use of relevant LinkedIn or Facebook groups, for instance. And ask specific questions!
  3. Share your best practices and your successes with colleagues. One of the best things about interaction with readers is that you get direct feedback, which you can then use to convince others of the value of interaction.
  4. Does your publication have a comments section? Spend some time posting there. Your colleagues may think you’re crazy, but keep it up. After a while, you’ll see that the reader comments under your articles are of a much higher quality that elsewhere on the site.
  5. Tell your manager you consider diversity important in your sources, and ask how much time you can free up each day to that end. Use that time to interact with readers, and don’t forget to share your successes with your manager.

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