Why the WSJ is creating “audience voice reporters”
Louise Story, The Wall Street Journal’s editor of newsroom strategy and interim chief technology and product officer, writes for Nieman Lab about why the paper is going to start encouraging comments on some of its articles as a way to facilitate more conversation.
Indeed, when we looked at the demographics of our heavy commenters, we found they don’t represent the Journal as a whole. That led us to focus on the people who are not commenting as much. Women and younger people have been less represented among our commenters than they are among our subscribers, so we took a look at what was keeping them away. What we heard was they want to feel safe from bullying and share their comments in a forum in which they won’t be attacked. This is important feedback that led us to look at workflow changes that would enable us to better enforce our existing commenting policies.
Some other audience findings shaped our approach. Among them: Most commenters don’t expect to be able to comment on all articles. (Yes, some may, but research found them to be a real minority.) From this insight, we realized we could use our resources better if we picked articles each day for audience conversation, listed them openly for the audience to find and had our moderators spend more time finding great comments and story leads and bringing those into our journalism. In fact, we have reframed the approach so much, that we are not calling our team “moderators”; instead, we are calling them “audience voice reporters.” They will report on the audience conversation.
So where does this leave us? We hope in a place where more people will participate in our audience conversation. Visiting our site should feel like there is more focus on that conversation, even though it’s happening on fewer stories, because we have modules on every article about which stories are open for conversation. And we will be featuring thoughtful audience posts high up in stories in a revolving carousel to capture a variety of perspectives.
Read more here.