A look at nine of the best collaborative journalism projects of 2018

Heather Bryant
Dec 17, 2018 · 8 min read

It’s been an incredible year for seeing what can be accomplished by newsrooms working in partnership. Whether it’s covering far-reaching wicked problems that a lone newsroom couldn’t fully report on, teaming up with different kinds of partners or for different goals, these collaborations embody the opportunity of collaboration and show why the future of journalism is collaborative.

Here’s a look at nine of the most interesting projects that were published or broadcast 2018.

Verificado 2018

Verification and fact checking disinformation during the Mexican Election

Verificado 2018 was a partnership between nearly 100 different groups spanning newsrooms, technology partners and university programs that covered 28 of Mexico’s 32 states. The coalition responded to audience verification requests across multiple platforms including WhatsApp to fact check and debunk disinformation in the form of text, images, memes and more. The project launched in March of 2018 to cover the months leading up to the July elections where thousands of candidates were running for local and national seats.

The project was award the Online Journalism inaugural Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships Award this October.

If this type of project interests you, other collaborative projects to look at: Comprova, CrossCheck

The Invading Sea

Collaborative coverage of the impacts of climate change, especially sea-level rise

As newsrooms, we continue to grapple with the monumental challenge of reporting on climate change in all the different ways that it has impact, from the politics, the science and the impact.

This project is an effort to examine the local impact of sea-level rise in South Florida. The work encompasses interactives, audio stories, video and a weekly newsletter with updates and new content.

The Invading Sea is a collaboration by the editorial boards of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post — with reporting by WLRN Public Media — to address the threat South Florida faces from sea-level rise. We want to raise awareness, amplify the voice of our region and create a call to action that can’t be ignored. — Statement on the Project from the Partners

If this project interests you, other projects to look at: In Harvey’s Wake; Ohio Valley ReSource; Boomtown, Flood Town

Taking Cover

Covering accountability around police shootings

The Better Government Association and WBEZ in Chicago tackled examining the process by which police are held accountable (or not) for shootings in Chicago.

The project published multiple stories and the data collected about the frequency and impact of the shootings.

As we continue to grapple with how to cover this topic in our newsrooms, collaborations like this are a good example of continuing to stay on this problem that’s not going away any time soon.

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: Bullied by the Badge

BBC Local News Partnerships

843 newsrooms within 90 news organizations in the U.K. sharing local content

The Local News Partnership is an effort unprecedented in scale to ensure coverage of local and regional government. The effort, underpinned by support from the BBC functions much like a wire service for more than 800 newsrooms, having shared more than 35,000 stories to date and adding between 1,000–1,500 stories each month.

The project includes multiple efforts like the Local Democracy Reporting Service which hires and trains journalists to specifically cover government. The 128 reporters hired so far are hired by and based in local newsrooms, but paid for by the BBC. The BBC also managed News Hub which provides BBC video and audio to the local partners.

“This level of coverage has never been undertaken by any news agency,” — Matthew Barraclough, BBC.

The BBC Local News Partnership is an example of news organizations recognizing that diminished capacity takes precedence over competition and coming together to keep doing the work that needs to be done.

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: CoastAlaska, Northwest News Network, California Dream

Documenting Hate

Newsrooms across the U.S. partner to document poorly tracked hate crimes

With hate crimes on the rise and no solid data on the problem, ProPublica launched the Documenting Hate project to collect stories of hate crimes around the country and connect local journalists to the data for reporting.

The project is a great example of a national news outlet empowering local newsrooms to do important reporting and supporting and amplifying those efforts.

“ProPublica regularly collects large amounts of information that we can’t process by ourselves, including documents gathered in our reporting, tips solicited by our engagement journalists, and data published in our news applications. Since the beginning, we’ve seen collaboration as a key way to make sure that all of this reporting material can be used to fulfill our mission: to make an impact in the real world.” — Rachel Glickhouse, partner manager for Documenting Hate

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to look at: A Betrayal, The Wall

Your Voice Ohio

Newsrooms in Ohio come together to respond to the opioid crisis

Fifty-three media organizations across Ohio joined together to hold conversations with community members and officials to talk about the impact of the opioid crisis on the state and its residents.

The project has created a research and data library, compiled resources on addiction and recovery options, resources for journalists covering the topic and solutions that have been attempted elsewhere or proposed by experts and communities. The effort is responsive to the audience, soliciting stories, experiences and questions that can help drive the reporting and perspectives showcased.

As the opioid crisis continues to damage communities and elude strong political action, collaborative efforts to cover the problem are an important space in journalism.

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: Voting Block.

Discipline and Women in Prison

Newsrooms cover the higher rates of discipline experienced by women in prison

NPR and the Medill School of Journalism analyzed data from 15 states, interviewed current and former prisoners, wardens and prison officials and visited five women’s prisons around the country. Their in-depth investigation revealed that women get into more trouble than men for similar infractions and get into trouble more frequently for minor infractions that men are not similarly punished for. Such punishments results in higher likelihood of solitary confinement and repercussions that lead to more time spent behind bars.

At a time when the United States leads the world in incarceration rates and as the rate of men being incarcerated is dropping while the number of women in incarceration is growing, this story comes at an important moment.

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: Walking While Black, After Solitary

Texas Public Records Purchase

21 newsrooms split the cost of a public records request

Records are often not free and the cost can inhibit newsrooms from essential reporting and coverage. In Texas, the tab for the Texas voter registration database and voting history was $3,500 for tens of millions of records.

With small budgets, newsrooms in Texas banded together to buy the dataset, marking the “largest collaboration in recent Texas history for the sole purpose of purchasing public records.”

“Editors were quick to see the value of the data we sought. There was little worry about competition. We had more questions about possible coordination on stories related to the data instead. But instead of trying to navigate story collaboration, we kept it focused on getting the data first. Almost everyone jumped on board. Most newsrooms that didn’t participate just never got back to me after voicemails or emails. In the end, 21 newsrooms were involved, making the overall cost for a massive amount of voter registration and voter history data to be around $180 per participant.” — Matt Dempsey, data editor at the Houston Chronicle

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: Oregon State Government collaborative, Spotlight PA

Broke in Philly

Coverage of economic hardship and mobility

Broke in Philly is a Solutions Journalism oriented approach to covering systemic poverty in Philadelphia, the nation’s largest poor city.

The work includes intentional approaches where community feedback drives the narrative, creating work like the The High Cost of Being Broke, which not only covers the issues of hardship but is structured such that the stories are intended for people experiencing hardship not just about them.

The project also includes thinking around language and the impact of talking about a topic that still includes a significant amount of stigma and shame and presenting stories and individual experiences in a respectful, not exploitative way.

If this project interests you, other collaborative projects to check out: SF Homelessness Project

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Heather Bryant is the founder and director of Project Facet, an open source infrastructure project that supports newsroom collaboration with tools to manage the logistics of creating, editing and distributing collaborative content, managing projects, facilitating collaborative relationships and sharing the best practices of collaborative journalism. She published the Collaborative Journalism Workbook, available at projectfacet.org.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

Heather Bryant

Written by

Director of Project Facet, building the infrastructure for effective, meaningful collaboration with newsrooms. The future of journalism is collaborative.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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