Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Atlantic is returning to blogging
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 22, 2014, 2:04 p.m.
Reporting & Production
Police Shooting Missouri

The Guardian and St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial pages are teaming up for Ferguson coverage

Local meets global: The papers are jointly seeking reader-submitted stories of racial profiling and are cross-publishing each other’s work.

It started, like so many things now do, with a tweet. On August 12, three days after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. and just as the protests there were beginning to garner national attention, Tony Messenger, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial page editor, sent a message to The Guardian’s U.S. opinion editor, Matt Sullivan:

Messenger was interested in some sort of collaboration to try and add a new dimension to the Post-Dispatch’s editorial page coverage of Ferguson.

“I realized that this was going to be so much more than a local and regional story, and was just brainstorming what could we do that expanded our local voice and that brought new voices into it both locally and nationally, beyond the normal things we do,” Messenger said.

To that end, the two editorial pages decided to collaborate on a project soliciting reader submissions about their own experiences with racial profiling from the police. They each put a submission form on their websites, sent out calls to readers to share their stories on social media with the hashtag #FergusonVoices, and also included links to the form in other stories on Ferguson.

ferguson-crowdsourcing-guardian-post-dispatch

“There were two things that they were very good at that we weren’t traditionally,” Messenger said. “One is their digital focus — we do some things digitally that we do well, but generally that’s their focus and they do that very well. And two is their curation of others’ work, and going out and getting good op-eds, and getting strong interesting voices that are outside the traditional syndicated column voices.”

Messenger and Sullivan first met in May at the Scripps Howard Awards dinner in Cincinnati. The Post-Dispatch had won an editorial writing award, and The Guardian was accepting another award for its reporting on the NSA from the Snowden leaks. (“Journalists drinking is good, that’s what started the collaboration,” Sullivan joked. “You can blame Edward Snowden for this one too.”) And since then, Messenger said he had been following The Guardian’s work and thought they might be interested in a partnership.

When Messenger first broached the idea of collaborating with Sullivan, he said he didn’t have any particular ideas in mind, but they quickly realized that with the Post-Dispatch’s local readership combined with The Guardian’s much larger national and international reach, they might be able to attract a mix of submissions from those near and far from what was happening on the ground in Ferguson.

“I’ve said no to almost every old white guy from afar who’s trying to explain the story, and I’ve said yes to people from St. Louis, or people who are from there or who have had similar experiences, and we’re trying to mutually reinforce that an opinion page should be a voice of the people as anything else,” Sullivan said.

The Guardian is handling the submissions, though it wouldn’t provide specific numbers for how many they’ve received. A spokesman would only tell me they’ve gotten “dozens” of submissions, with about half coming from individuals from Missouri.

Both editors said they were still working out details on what the final product will look like from the submissions, but staff at both outlets are working to develop their own versions of interactives to publish on each paper’s website. Guardian developers built the initial submission form and made it embeddable on the Post-Dispatch’s site, but because of differences in how the two sites are run, each is creating its own format to present the submissions digitally. “It’ll look different in both places,” Messenger said.

Other newsrooms are thinking of nonconventional ways to cover Ferguson, a big story located far from the coastal cities where most national and global outlets have staffers stationed. The Huffington Post this week said it was asking readers to pay for a local freelancer to stick with the story once the protests die down.

The Guardian and Post-Dispatch are currently limiting their partnership to the editorial pages, but they are taking it beyond their joint call for submissions. The Guardian on Wednesday published an unsigned editorial written by the Post-Dispatch’s editorial board after Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson earlier that day. Messenger and Sullivan said that, while their main focus has been soliciting reader submissions, they hope to cross-publish more content. As we all spoke on the phone, Messenger was suggesting Post-Dispatch content that the Guardian could publish. “That reminds me, our artist did a nice Michael Brown drawing that we ran on our op-ed page, I’ll send you a link to that,” he told Sullivan.

Photo of August 20 protest in Ferguson by AP/Charlie Riedel.

POSTED     Aug. 22, 2014, 2:04 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Atlantic is returning to blogging
“We missed the kind of writing it represents. We missed the kind of audience engagement it represents.”
The mourning of AJR is less about a decline in press criticism than the loss of an institution
Like the media it covers, journalism criticism has moved from the work of a few established institutions to something more diffuse.
A Cincinnati TV station with a paywalled site is challenging the city’s leading daily newspaper
The E.W. Scripps–operated WCPO.com is moving in on Cincinnati.com’s turf, though both outlets ultimately see the competition as driving richer, deeper journalism for the city and the greater Cincinnati region.
What to read next
2351
tweets
The New York Times built a Slack bot to help decide which stories to post to social media
The bot, named Blossom, helps predict how stories will do on social and also suggests which stories editors should promote.
1287Jo Ellen Green Kaiser: Do independent news outlets have a blind spot when it comes to ethnic media?
The head of the Media Consortium argues that, by defining themselves in opposition to mainstream media, independent progressive outlets miss out on the power of ethnic and community journalism.
1029Newsonomics: 10 numbers on The New York Times’ 1 million digital-subscriber milestone
Digital subscribers are proving to be the bedrock of the Times’ business model going forward. How much more room is there for growth — and at what price points?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Ushahidi
Sports Illustrated
TechCrunch
MSNBC
The New York Times
ProPublica
Patch
Futurity
Journal Register Co.
Reddit
Apple
Public Radio International