Via Techdirt, I came across a nice story of a Belgian newspaper that opened the door to the community of its readers. The writing and editorial staff were meeting to plan their coverage of the banking crisis, and one staff member live-blogged the meeting -- in effect inviting the newspaper website's readers into the room. The result was a lively back-and-forth, in which readers suggested story angles and submitted leads, while the newspaper staff posted updates as news broke.
It's an inspiring story. No doubt you've seen the many, many stories about how newspapers are unsure of what to do with the Internet, let alone social networks; too often those stories break down along the lines of newspaper writers complaining that Google is somehow stealing their content, or that the federal government should subsidize print newspapers in order to preserve the social function that they serve. Rarely, as here, do you see a story of a newspaper actively engaging with the community formed by its readers. There's a paternalistic tone to many of these stories, whereby the newspaper reporters are the keepers of knowledge and we, on the reader side, are mere passive recipients. But a newspaper's readership comprises a broad swath of society, and many of those readers have deep insights or unique perspectives that would enrich the coverage that a newspaper can provide. First, though, the newspaper staff has to be willing to listen.