Story ideas with a scone and coffee

In blogs, branding, journalism, reporting, social media, Twitter on September 29, 2011 at 9:00 am

In early August, I wrote about California Watch’s Open Newsroom project, in which its reporters spread out around the state and set up shop in wifi-enabled coffeehouses.

The purpose was to mingle with readers, gathering story ideas while promoting California Watch at the same time.

I wanted to do something similar on my new beat covering Oldham County at the Louisville Courier-Journal and am happy to report that earlier this month I did.

The Courier-Journal dubbed the event “C-J on the Go,” and along with promoting the fact that I would be sitting around a coffeehouse for five hours in the newspaper and on my blog, we shot a promotional video, the link to which is happily no longer available online — being on video is not my favorite thing to do — and set up a live blog for me to update throughout the event.

Below is a post from my “Experience Oldham” blog about our first C-J on the Go. A slightly different version of this post also ran in the Oldham Neighborhoods section of the C-J.

C-J on the Go stirs up ideas

I really didn’t know what to expect when I organized the C-J on the Go event for Sept. 1 at Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop in La Grange.

Would people be waiting in line to talk to me about story ideas and what they’d like to see in the newspaper?

Would I spend the five hours of the event alone, watching passers-by keep on passing with only my coffee cup to keep me company?

Happily, what I got was something in the middle.

Fifteen people stopped through to chat about issues ranging from the La Grange Farmers’ Market to the Oldham County Planning and Zoning Commission to foreign exchange students living in Oldham. A few more posted questions and comments online on Twitter and the live blog I updated throughout the event.

In fact, I met several of the people mentioned in the story about La Venture Station, which is in this week’s Neighborhoods issue, at the event. And I hope to write about some of the other things I learned in issues to come.

(To learn more about C-J on the Go, read the blog post, “Keep me in know at ‘C-J on the Go.’“)

So, to all those who came out, commented and convened, I share my deepest thanks for not leaving me hanging.

But I don’t want this to be the end of the conversation. While I do hope to do more C-J on the Go events — and if you have any suggestions of where I should go next, please share — I don’t want to wait until then to continue the discussion of what you’d like this Neighborhoods section to be.

What are the topics you are passionate about?

Commuting? The economy and how it affects your quality of life? Health? Entertainment? Education? Government transparency?

I want to include stories on topics that get the community talking and thinking. I want to cover the news that’s shaping the county and write stories that you remember past picking up the Neighborhoods section on Wednesdays, past the workday, past the weekend.

So any help with that is always encouraged.

To share story ideas or just your thoughts on what you’d like to read, please contact me at (502) 582-4621 and at ehagedorn@courier-journal.com. You also can write in the comments section of this blog post online.

Thanks for your help making this section more of a two-way conversation.

As I wrote in the post, I’d like to do this again. But some things I’m going to do differently next time:

  • Make a more concerted effort to tweet and live blog what’s happening. Updating the live blog and Twitter didn’t happen as often as I would have liked due to the steady stream of people who came in during the event.
  • See if we can put a sign outside the coffee shop telling people what we’re doing inside. The street I was on gets a lot of foot traffic. I would have liked to have pulled in more pedestrians.
  • Have the people who stop by fill out a basic survey or answer questions verbally about their thoughts on the newspaper. How often do they read the newspaper? What usually brings them to the website? What more can we do? Mostly the readers and I just spoke about the story ideas they came to the coffeehouse to discuss.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know.

  1. This is really a cool idea! I heard about California Watch doing it, but I’m glad to hear it also worked for a local paper. I for sure want to try it in our newsroom.

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