Google Voice successes at The Troy Record

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Following up on JRC Google Voice training, Troy Record Digital Specialist Tom Caprood launched his first project asking readers to give opinions on of a new McDonald’s opening in Troy, NY. Although the topic wasn’t timely, Caprood “took a chance to see if readers still had something to say about the issue.

Caprood first posted a story explaining he wanted readers to share thoughts and provided a Google Voice number. Caprood received 10 responses. In addition to using Google Voice for the project, he used AP Images to gather stock images of McDonald’s locations and products.

Caprood said newsrooms “have to be prepared for the fact that you might not get responses … If something doesn’t work, rethink your approach and try again. Also, as Karen Workman (from The Oakland Press) pointed out during the training session on Google Voice, it’s best to try and pick a topic that either is controversial or that you feel people will respond emotionally to.”

The New Haven Register launches The Citizens’ Agenda

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When Digital First Media announced a partnership to create Citizens’ Agenda, Angi Carter was excited. Carter, a community engagement editor at the NHR, didn’t want to wait to get a handle on what the local electorate was thinking. In order to find out, the NHR has a soft launch underway with an issues poll using a Google form and plans to augment stories with public forums, chats and debates with questions fielded from the public.

Six staffers formatted the poll, getting it in sync with Newsys and packaged the text with it for online and print presentations on Dec. 21 and Dec. 25. Middletown Press, The Register Citizen and Litchfield County Times also published it. The story was promoted on social media and during a live chat. The paper has launched Senate and House race Facebook pages and a blog. NHR has 147 responses and 38 people willing to participate in public forums.

Carter would encourage other publications to introduce the Citizens’ Agenda partnership and seek input from the voters on what issues are important. She also said to pay attention to social media presence around political coverage.

A community editorial board at The Morning Sun

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When The Morning Sun Editor Rick Mills launched a community editorial board, he said he knew there was a “growing knowledge that a strong Opinion Page was just as important to the community as news coverage.” Mills said he was uncomfortable with the idea of every local editorial coming from him, an editor or even the staff.

Mills wrote a column outlining his perspective, the importance of opinions and conflicting viewpoints and asking for community

Screenshot: The Morning Sun "Community Commentary" blog page

members to contribute on a regular basis. He formed an application process and community members submitted an informal introduction, answered some questions and addressed three local issues they felt deserved attention. Fifteen applicants responded. At a meeting of the community board, a Central Michigan University faculty member spoke on the importance of local opinion. The board has ranged from nine to 15 members and there is a monthly rotation schedule, with regular contributors posting weekly and sharing a community blog on the website.

“They have been extremely valuable in terms of ideas for editorials, positions and guidance, but also contribute equally to story-generation. For a small staff, we more than doubled our eyes and ears by having community members looking out, talking to friends and coworkers and bringing back to us what they hear and see and think,” Mills said.

“My main advice would be to try it in some form, get media lab folks involved, teach them, and show them how important a newspaper’s voice and a strong editorial page are,” Mills said. “In many communities there are many sources for news, we need to lead on more than just news and readers like and respond to strong local opinion pages.”