News Cube: Public service journalism templates
What is it? What’s Your Problem is a feature that documents ongoing structural problems in a community that haven’t been fixed, such as pot holes, broken stop signs and broken stoplights. Problems that are documented should be things that can be fixed in a timely fashion and not issues that are tied to major finances, such as the demolition of eyesore buildings.
Why should we do this feature? Newsrooms often get calls from readers complaining about issues that are impacting safety and quality of life. The What’s Your Problem feature allows newsrooms a consistent place to anchor these stories.
How do we get the feature going? Brainstorm with your staff on issues that readers have called in with or topics that residents have raised during meetings as needing to be fixed. Consider creating promotional ads as well, asking readers to send in problems they want to see fixed.
• Highlighting the issue or problem.
• Status of the issue or problem.
• Who is responsible for the problem at the local government level.
2. What’s Going on Here? When readers see things occurring around town, such as a new development on a downtown street, they can find out what’s occurring by sending the question to the newspaper’s “What is it?” feature.
What is it? Reporters aren’t the only curious residents in town. Readers are, too. The What’s Going on Here feature helps explain in an alternative story format why there’s a “For Sale” sign in front of a historic building, why there’s a detour around an old bridge or why there’s a pile of dirt next to the ballfield.
How is it used? Come up with a list of three or four possible What’s Going on Here topics and start reporting. The template has an area for readers to contact the paper if they want their questions answered. In addition, reporters and editors should document when readers ask them questions in their reporting and through phone calls that could fit into the future.
• The question.
• The answer.
• What it means to you.