The Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project is an opportunity to re-imagine the newsgathering process with the focus on Digital First and Print Last. Using only free tools found on the Internet, the project will – from assigning to editing- create, publish and distribute news content on both the web and in print.
Traditionally the model has been for the reporter/editor to determine what should be covered and how it should be covered. That story would then weave its way through the journalistic process – reporters gathering facts from the usual stable of sources and the editors guiding the efforts – before ending on the printed page. From there the vast majority of newspapers have then pushed those stories onto the web. They are literally going from a slow medium to fast. And that’s just backwards both in timing and audience desires.
The Ben Franklin Project opens the process and allows everyone to participate at whatever level they are comfortable. Adhering to Journal Register’s digital first mission, the Ben Franklin Project will empower the audience – through use of free web-based tools (the list of which is still being finalized) – to determine on what stories our reporting and editing staff should be focusing their efforts. The audience – the news consumer – will no longer simply be the end user. By transforming the process the traditional “end user” will be put at the beginning of the process when she helps shape the newsgathering and participates in the newsgathering.
Yes, the reporters will still report and the editors will still edit. The difference in the Ben Franklin project is that the journalists will be accountable throughout – not simply after the story reaches deadline and is delivered to the audience. The staff members involved in the Ben Franklin project will ensure their reporting process is transparent as to encourage full participation from the audience. Reporters will document their newsgathering online thus providing the audience opportunity to question, guide and join the process.
All of this will start with the assigning process. To truly engage our readership we must know they are interested in reading, watching and consuming what is reported. The legacy measurements of circulation, sales and even the modern metrics of unique visitors and page views only measure reader interest after the fact. By providing a platform where users can suggest stories, vote for story assignments and/or opening contribute (information, sources, data, etc.), the Ben Franklin Project will create an open-sourced assignment desk. And, the process will continue as readers track story developments online. Stories that not judged worthy by the audience could be dismissed while those that may have been dismissed under a legacy model could find new life.
And since the Journal Register Company, is a for-profit-business, the project will be expanded to include our efforts in advertising sales, customer relationship management and financial reporting – again, we will be using only free web-based tools.
We are asking our employees and the public to help us in any way they choose – from what you think we should cover, once we announce which of our publications will be participating, to the web-based free tools they think we should use. You can comment here or follow the project on Twitter @ #jrcbenfranklin or comment on JRC’s CEO John Paton’s blog at http://jxpaton.wordpress.com.
This is all quoted from the “What’s the Ben Franklin Project?” page on http://jrcbenfranklinproject.wordpress.com.
I think this, The Ben Franklin Project, is a fascinating venture, and I will be very interested to see how it works, especially as I prepare for my entrance into journalism education. I want to know what to teach my students about the industry, primarily concerning how it is changing and what they need to learn to stay viable in world of journalism.
Gaining a strong grasp of ways to disseminate content quickly and with little or no cost is essential, I believe.
The Ben Franklin Project could develop one more piece to the puzzle that is the journalism business model’s savior.