Media organizations have partnered for as long as I can remember. CBS4 News used to partner with The Rocky Mountain News before it closed. Now the station partners with The Denver Business Journal. KUSA and KMGH also partner with local print organizations. There are various partnerships with local radio stations as well. These partnerships will continue but need to go beyond media organization to media organization.

Collaboration is a term being used more these days to describe a wide variety of media partnerships and ways to share information. Almost every article I’ve read regarding the future of journalism involves collaboration. I too believe collaborative efforts will shape the future of news. I believe this because I’m already collaborating with people outside of the newsroom to cover the news where the end result is truly fulfilling.

When a scanner failure in the newsroom prevented me from hearing police search for suspects in a home invasion and shooting, people on Twitter relayed what they were hearing to me. Brandon Harper, a follower of CBS4 News on Twitter, sent a Tweet to the station asking if we were listening to the scanners. I immediately replied explaining I knew of the situation, but couldn’t hear it. I asked him to share the information he was hearing.

Then I went to his Twitter stream to see if he’d said anything else about it. I found that he was listening to the scanner through an application on his iPhone. To say the least I was quite frustrated that a phone application could pick up the scanner channels when I couldn’t. I shared my frustration on Twitter and soon Kevin Boulas, a friend and follower, sent me a Tweet saying he bought the application and asked if there was any news he could share.

I’m pretty sure he was joking about this, but I jumped on the chance to have him act as my ears. He gladly did so putting out over 30 tweets and 17 direct messages to me relaying what he was hearing. I ReTweeted some of what Boulas and Harper relayed to me, but more importantly I directed people to follow them. I wanted everyone to know who was saying what and who was helping me. I made it very clear I couldn’t cover the situation as well without their help.

David Hayes another Twitter follower also picked up some scanner chatter on his Blackberry application and shared it. Soon several people were Tweeting with me and with Boulas about what was happening. The information shared kept those on Twitter informed. I was able to keep the news photographers that had been sent up-to-date with the information as well. I can't stress how important it is that I'm able to share that kind of information with the news crews. Above all, it keeps them safe and able to stay out of the way of the police doing their jobs.

People on Twitter have helped cover the news in this way before from sharing scanner chatter to letting me know what's happening in their neighborhoods. Now collaborative journalism can't just be me taking from those around me. I, and other journalists, need to give back beyond just sharing the news stories we're working on, or the scanner chatter I'm hearing. Ways I do this:

  • Share press releases and information, that may not ever make a newscast or be on the Web site, on Twitter and facebook.
  • Answer questions whenever possible, even if question doesn't involve a news story.
  • Open to taking story tips and press releases.
  • Provide additional information.

Providing additional information goes beyond me just posting or Tweeting it. Last week the Parker Police Department sent a press release to the station regarding a search for a home burglary suspect. A few hours after receiving the press release I saw a local Examiner article on the police search. The article didn't include a mug shot of the suspect. I checked the Parker Police site and saw the release was there, but not the picture.

I sent Chrissy Morin, author, a Twitter Direct Message asking if she had the photo, and if not if she would like the photo. I then uploaded the photo to TwitPic, and included a link to her article in the photo description. Morin responded to my DM soon after and provided her email address. I forwarded her the police press release.

I see that Morin so kindly attributed the picture to me in her article, but honestly I don't think this was needed. The mug shot was provided by the police to be used by all media. I saw no problem in sharing it with Morin because it wasn't my or the station's property.

From social networking to sharing public information with bloggers, citizen journalists and other non-traditional media organizations we can truly collaborate in journalistic efforts. The end result being a richer, fuller, more in-depth picture and story.

(Thankfully the next day it was determined the scanners on the news desk weren't being beaten by cell phone applications. An entire block of emergency channels had somehow been locked out from the appropriate scanner. That problem solved. I've requested speakers for one of the computers on the news desk so if there ever is a failure again we can try to listen to the scanner on the Internet.)

Scanner resources:

Internet: Radio Reference
BlackBerry: BlackBerry Scanner
iPhone: Emergency Scanner
iPhone: Scanner 911