How American Public Media Uses Social Media and Its Audience to Shape the News

American Public Media At a recent Media Relations in the Digital Age panel, I heard and interesting tidbit from Nancy Marshall-Genzer, a reporter at American Public Media’s Marketplace program. Ms. Genzer described what I think is an innovative way one news organization is leveraging its audience and using social media to shape the news.

American Public Media has created a “Public Insight Network” where you can go on the American Public Media website and sign up to be considered a source for stories. APM describes the network this way:

Public Insight Network is a new approach that journalists with American Public Media shows like Marketplace, Marketplace Money, American RadioWorks and Weekend America are using to find diverse sources and a broader range of information. It involves partnering with the public and, at its heart, is our Public Insight Network – a group of thousands of people who have agreed to help us cover the news.

Many of our public sources have told us about their work, education, passions and expertise. Almost daily, we ask some of these public sources in the network to share their observations and knowledge with us on specific stories. Our public insight analysts take that information, distill it, and pass it on to our reporters and editors. Analysts may follow up with a request for more information, or perhaps an interview with a public source.

We also ask public sources to tell us about stories that we should be covering – stories that matter to them and are not on our radar. And we ask people to participate in online interactives where they share ideas and stories and reason through tough issues.

These public insights help us set our agenda for coverage and inform our reporting. We believe this partnership creates more diverse and in-depth news and cultural coverage. It also makes American Public Media programs even more trusted and credible sources of news and information.

I went ahead and signed up to join the network and immediately got an auto-respond note thanking me for signing up. The email also informed me of another aspect of the network, the “Trading Floor” which is essentially a blog. Each post poses a question (I’m assuming from a story one of the APM journalists is working on) and to join the conversation and be considered for a story, you simply comment on the blog post.Check out the Trading Floor.

Overall I think this concept has great potential and could be a cool way to use social media to source stories, kind of like HARO and ProfNet’s alerts on Twitter.

Maybe American Public Media has created these “networks” because they’re stretched super-thin and need to be smarter and more efficient in finding sources for their stories. Maybe they were only tapping into a certain demographic and wanted to open the perspectives up to more readers. Either way,  crowd-sourcing does increase the diversity of voices , so it’s a win-win either way.

The PRSA panel was the first time I’d heard of the netowork. The comments on the site were sparse,  and there were only 15 queries since April, so some awareness should probably be raised. There is a Twitter Account that’s basically a feed of all of the queries. So add it to one of your Twitter lists and monitor it daily.

I wonder how many PR pros have signed their clients up to be sources on the network. Have you? If you’re not signed up for the Trading Floor, check it out. It’s free, and there’s nothing to lose. It may be a great way to find another story. I’ll let you know if I come across any queries that pan out for me.

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