Collaborative journalism is having a moment right now, but it’s more than just a buzzword. As budgets and staff sizes continue to shrink in local newsrooms, collaboration has become one crucial way to expand coverage and reach.
Last year, in partnership with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and New America Media, we launched Voting Block NJ, a collaborative initiative that brought together 25 newsrooms that serve New Jersey to cover the state’s gubernatorial election. Our effort resulted in more than 70 stories and over two dozen community events, called Political Potlucks, that invited the public into the conversation and reporting process.
Since wrapping up Voting Block NJ, we’ve published a step-by-step guide on launching Voting Block projects for the 2018 midterm elections and have been working with Lindsay Green-Barber of The Impact Architects to evaluate the project’s impact.
Her full report on Voting Block is now NJ Voting Bock Report
If you’re interested in doing something like this, the report provides insight into how the project was organized, its effect on newsrooms and audiences, and key lessons and recommendations.
We’re hoping to take the lessons from our work in New Jersey to other communities with Reveal Local Labs, our new initiative aimed at supporting local investigative reporting and fostering collaboration. As we move into this next phase of our work, here are three key takeaways from Voting Block NJ:
Voting Block partners said they joined the collaborative due to a pre-existing relationship with the coordinating partners. When launching a collaborative project, start with organizations you know and keep building from there.
Establish regular lines of communication among partners.
Voting Block partners stayed in touch via email, Slack and weekly conference calls. Partners said they found the conference calls the most effective mode of communication. Future projects should consider organizing an “all-team” weekly or monthly check-in to ensure that all partners are on the same page and have ample opportunity to build relationships.
Set common impact goals and evaluation metrics.
Identify key goals for your collaborative project, such as expanding the size and engagement of your audience, and agree to share certain data in order to evaluate your project. For example, partnership agreements can include sharing audience reach indicators (unique page views, downloads, broadcast numbers, etc.).