More Local Newsrooms Are Launching Collaborative Journalism Projects – Here’s Why

Local publishers are using collaborative journalism projects to build their profiles without draining their resources.

If you’re a publisher with a restricted budget, then hiring a team of professional journalists to conduct months of research into a single topic may not be in the cards. Through collaborative journalism projects, independent news websites can band together to create the kinds of impressive content that generate real user engagement. We know this because many of our publishing clients have taken part in collaborative journalism projects, and they are seeing long-lasting returns on their investments.

When local publishers band together, they end up spending less money, while still creating high quality content. High quality content is a key driver of subscription sign-ups, leading a high ROI when these projects are done right.

How frequently have you found yourself with a great idea for a local story, without the resources to get the project off the ground? Maybe taking on the story would require a significant financial investment, or maybe it would take up too much of your editorial team’s time. When you partner with another publisher on a collaborative journalism project, you spread out the risk without giving up the reward.

What Are Collaborative Journalism Projects?

As the name implies, collaborative journalism projects are big stories that are taken on by teams of reporters and editors. Sometimes those teams are made up of reporters from a single publication, but more frequently we are seeing teams of reporters come together from across the country. The rise in lolocal cal/national journalism collaborations has been covered quite extensively by resources like Nieman Lab, however we are more interested in the recent uptick in collaborations between similarly-sized local publications.

As resources in local newsrooms have shrunk, the number of collaborative journalism projects is on the rise.

Successful collaborative journalism projects require certain skills, abilities, and technology tools from reporters and the publications they work for.

One of the best examples of a true collaborative journalism project is Documenting Hate, a collaborative effort put together by ProPublica. Together with reporters from more than 160 local and national newsrooms across the country, ProPublica’s team put together a detailed investigation of hate crimes and bias incidents in the United States. (You can read more about ProPublica’s collaborative Documenting Hate project here.)

Collaboration Tools for Journalists

Whenever teams are working together remotely, certain technologies are going to be needed to ease the communication barriers. Email and text messaging are too cumbersome for large groups. Instead, we are seeing more and more journalists using these tools when they put together collaborative projects.

  1. CrowdNewsroom: CrowdNewsroom is a platform for editorial teams that want to research together with their readers. It can also be used by multiple newsrooms in local/local or local/national newsroom collaborations.
  2. Google Docs: With Google Docs, reporters and editors can create, edit, and collaborate on live documents with their peers from around the globe. This is useful not just in the final stages of putting articles together, but also in the research phase, when shared spreadsheets are often used to help avoid people doubling up on work.
  3. Slack: With most newsrooms already using Slack for team communication, the platform has become the go-to tool for reporters that want to share information with their professional collaborators. With Slack, reporters can chat in real-time and create private workspaces specifically for their collaborative projects.
  4. Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts offers a way for journalists to have face-to-face conversations with their teams, regardless of their physical locations. Google Hangouts is free to use, and it’s easy for anyone with a Google account to quickly jump on a video conference call.
  5. Asana or Basecamp: Asana and Basecamp are both work management platforms that teams can use to stay focused. While these platforms aren’t a necessity for every collaborative journalism project, many teams find that it’s helpful to have a centralized place to create lists of goals, daily tasks, and project timelines.