By Ryan Thornburg
In journalism we sometimes find ourselves getting wrapped up in chasing the competition on a story, or — driven by our fierce sense of independence — re-reporting the work of another news outlet. But with fewer reporting resources, collaboration has become a growing part of the journalistic culture. And for the last two months a handful of reporters across North Carolina have been building on a national open-source journalism project and an academic partnership to report on local public health department spending by sharing data resources.
Last month the NC Local News Workshop hosted a hands-on session that showed reporters how to use spreadsheets to interview data about public health spending that had been acquired by reporters at Kaiser Health News and students at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. And to make sure the lessons of the data reporting class didn’t get lost in the daily deadline pressure, several reporters who joined the training have continued to participate in a Slack discussion where they traded ideas with each other, shared the data they collected and received coaching from me.
(The collaboration started even earlier, as the NC Press Association hosted an overview session (find the recording here) during its winter convention featuring the UNC student reporting project. The story was published in collaboration with The News & Observer/ Herald-Sun, and the overview session was done in partnership with the NC Local News Workshop.)
Giving something, getting something
It’s a trend we’re seeing more often in journalism — a learn-and-do approach to collaboration. Reporters get professional development in high-demand skills, and they contribute to a shared data set. Everyone gives something. Everyone gives something.