How Muckrakers Use Crowdsourcing: Case Studies from ProPublica to The Guardian

Toby McIntosh at Global Investigative Journalism:”…Creative use of social media provides new ways for journalists not just to solicit tips, but also to tap readers’ expertise, opinions and personal experiences.

A stronger ethos of reader engagement is resulting in more sophisticated appeals from journalists for assistance with investigations, including:

  • Seeking tips on very defined topics
  • Asking readers to talk about their experiences on broad subjects
  • Inviting comments after publication

Here are examples of what your colleagues are doing:

Hey, Shell Employees!

Dutch reporter Jelmer Mommers of Dutch news site De Correspondent appealed directly to Shell employees for information in a lengthy blog post, as described in this article. The resulting investigation revealed that Shell had detailed knowledge of the dangers of climate change more than a quarter century ago.

Along the way, in what Jelmer calls “the most romantic moment,” came the surprise delivery of a box full of internal documents. De Correspondent’s emphasis on communicating with subscribers is described here.

Call for Childbirth Experiences

Getting reader input in advance was key to a major U.S. story on maternal health to which thousands of people contributed. ProPublica  engagement reporter Adriana Gallardo and her colleagues published a questionnaire in February of 2017 aimed at women who had experienced life-threatening complications in childbirth.

Using a variety of social media channels, Gallardo, along with ProPublica’s Nina Martin and NPR’s Renee Montagne, received several thousand responses. The personal stories fueled a series and the connections made are still being maintained for follow-up work. Read more in this this GIJN article.

Testimonials from Mexico’s Drug War

Anyone’s Child Mexico” is a documentary about the families affected by Mexico’s drug war. To gather stories, the producers of the documentary publicized a free phone line through local partners and asked people across Mexico to call in and recount their stories.

Callers could also listen to other testimonials. With funding from the University of Bristol’s Brigstow Institute, producers Matthew Brown, Ewan Cass-Kavanagh, Mary Ryder and Jane Slater created a website to bring together audio, photos, video and text and tell harrowing stories of a country ravaged by violence….(More)”.