Collaborative Journalism Can Drive National News

In his new capacity as founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, FAIR founder Jeff Cohen recently hosted Josh Marshall, who used the Center’s inaugural event to describe (Huffington Post, 10/3/08) the evolution of his independent Talking Points Memo websites:

After the 2004 election, it had become second nature to me to make use of the readership as a source of information. What I did on the site was a hybrid of traditional journalism and what we now call collaborative journalism–working with readers. I did a lot of writing in the beginning of 2005 on President Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security. I used readers to find individual members of Congress saying things in town hall meetings, and using that readership to access information, to follow the debate at the ground level in a way that traditional journalists weren’t able to do.

Then in early 2005, there was the beginning of what has proved to be a series of corruption scandals, in this case Congressman Duke Cunningham. I was aggressive and used some of that collaborative journalism. The site’s audience was growing. So I was getting more and more tips coming in from the readership…. So I had the idea that if I could hire a couple of reporters to do something like I was doing, we could make even more use of all this information that was coming in.

The results: hard-hitting investigative reportage that wound up driving the corporate news cycle–and winning Marshall the Polk Award for Legal Reporting.