HOME
          
LATEST STORY
With limited time to revamp WNYC’s Schoolbook, John Keefe decided to take his team on the road
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.
With limited time to revamp WNYC’s Schoolbook, John Keefe decided to take his team on the road
The new Schoolbook will have targeted emails, major content partnerships, three languages, and more — and building it took just seven days.
Why The Daily Pennsylvanian is spending $100,000 over the next two years to foster innovation
The University of Pennsylvania student newspaper is looking for innovative students on its staff — and from outside the paper.
Q&A: The FT’s Gillian Tett on separating digital from print and tailoring news to new reading habits
“What is changing is people are actually saying, Okay, how are consumers, our readers, actually consuming the news?”
What to read next
751
tweets
Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
677Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?
A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism.
596Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
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 ➚
SF Appeal
Voice of San Diego
DNAinfo
Austin American-Statesman
Plaza Pública
NBCNews.com
Windy Citizen
Tumblr
Sports Illustrated
U.S. News & World Report
The Nation
I-News