Building the ecosystems for collaboration

“This is the year when we develop the infrastructure, protocols, and processes to support and facilitate effective collaboration where and when it’s needed, quickly and effectively initiated.”

As an industry reckoning with challenges on multiple fronts, 2018 is the year when news organizations leverage partnerships and collaboration with other news organizations — not to mention a wide range of partners like tech companies, nonprofits, community organizations, and academia — to address challenges.

As a toolset, collaboration is a flexible set of operations that newsrooms can adopt in order to more strategically use limited resources, reduce competitive waste, counter misinformation, ameliorate a lack of diversity, expand reach in audience and sources, connect with communities, cross lines of division, and cover news in community-centered rather than transactional ways.

This is the year when we develop the infrastructure, protocols, and processes to support and facilitate effective collaboration where and when it’s needed, quickly and effectively initiated.

Journalism has much to learn from other industries in this regard. In the same way that the CDC doesn’t wait for an emergency to have a system in place for coordinating area health centers, so too should journalism create protocols for covering large-scale stories, disasters, emergencies, shootings, and other significant events to best leverage the roles and expertise of different relevant news organizations best situated to cover the story.

The coming year will see more organization develop around projects in the vein of Documenting Hate and the Panama and Paradise Papers, where we collectively support and empower networks of local newsrooms to cover large, distributed stories effectively and comprehensively. We’ll leverage infrastructure to make spontaneous collaboration in the face of sudden news more efficient and calibrated. We’ll see more interconnectedness between local newsrooms and community partners, in the spirit of City Bureau, to best reach more cross-sections of communities and provide more nuanced and community-focused journalism.

Whether the scale is global or local, the infrastructure of collaboration, both human and technical, will be both a need and an opportunity. We need to create and foster the relationships that will ensure our newsrooms can address problems that need to be fixed and do the journalism that needs to be done.

This opportunity is our chance to rethink what it looks like to create news in a world where the traditional notions of competition no longer serve the best interests of journalism or our audiences.

We can do better and we can do it together.

Heather Bryant is the founder of Project Facet, an open source project to support editorial collaboration.

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