Our goals for Talk


The goals for our Talk product are:

  1. To create a space where audience members can offer insights and engage in conversation about journalism, without being unduly vulnerable to attack. This is because community members want to feel heard by each other and by the news organizations and want to control how much personal information they share.
  2. To decrease the volume and visibility of hostile contributions, and increase that of constructive contributions, because focusing on the constructive will reward behavior that helps the community, instead of only punishing people for stepping out of line.
  3. To create the best possible spaces for people who don’t usually contribute to communities around journalism (including people of color, gender non binary, women of all ethnicities, etc), because both readers and journalists will benefit if comment sections better represent the diversity of thought and experience among the audience. 
  4. To make it easy for people to find what they want to read because they want a fulfilling reading experience. Engaging with meaningful and desired content will encourage more people to participate, and journalists’ work will improve by connecting with community members.
  5. To identify and manage problems quickly and early, so that action can be taken to maintain the integrity of the community space, because that will encourage more people to invest time in the community.
  6. To allow newsrooms to customize their communities based on their needs, and to create an ongoing relationship of trust and dialog with their audiences. We believe that this is most effective through decentralized tools that the newsrooms own and control.

What do you think about these goals? How close are they to your needs? What did we miss?


I don’t know if you missed anything, but often I wonder what practicing journalists themselves want from a contributing public - if they want anything at all. Comments and/or reader contributions got added to all kinds of sites because it was “interactive” “a good thing to do” “better engagement” and other things that are rather abstract. I wonder how many journalists look at comments about their story and find, or expect to find, things that actually improve the reporting or paint a fuller picture of the context. I bet not many.

Like I said in a different topic, comments on the news seem heavily weighted toward critique or opinion and don’t offer substantive additions to the reporting. Thus, I think a great many in the newsroom see comments as a kind of play pen that may or may not make readers feel more engaged. But I doubt they think it helps them do their work better. I’m not sure any good sized news org has solved this. And I also am not sure in 2017 how much they even want to. This was the grail I was looking for long ago. Didn’t find it, but it was an interrupted quest for me. My take on Coral is that this is the best chance to get there.


I think you’re right - though most journalists do at least read comments. There’s some good research on that here: https://engagingnewsproject.org/research/journalists-and-online-comments/

I believe that we can frame community as helping to solve journalists’ existing problems (Where do I find sources? How can I find more people who have experienced this? What should I write about next?) rather than as a separate end in itself.

Some news orgs are doing this - the FT and ProPublica come to mind, as well as NYT and WaPo - but even in these places, my impression is that its application is uneven across the newsroom. I hope we can live up to your hopes, and help make this culture change with technology and guides designed to help journalists work better, by being part of, and not separate from, their communities.


I think it would work best if it is left up to each journalist to decide how much direct involvement they want from the public with a given story. Provide good tools for them and make it somehow clear that they are or are not being employed for a particular story or series. I imagine that showing positive results would make the whole process more attractive to other journalists who aren’t so sure they see the value of it.

One thing Dan Rosenheim (former Managing Editor of the SF Chronicle and now the News Director of KPIX TV in SF) said to me once was, newspaper people self-select for introverts and TV people self-select for extroverts. This is relevant in that I generally found it difficult to get newspaper journalists to do or try something interactive if they weren’t that interested in it.


I completely agree. We need to help journalists understand the role that community can play in helping them with their work, make it easier for them to do so, and give them the training and support they need - but we can’t force it.

Do you know of any other examples of industries where people have come to see community as part of their job, where previously they didn’t?


Certainly you see that in customer support everywhere now. Though i often hesitate to use “community” when it’s really crowd sourced product support. But regardless of that, you do see it there.

But with journalism it’s different. Community conversation when it is working best is the community trying to improve its overall knowledge through helping a professional - the reporter. I don’t know where else you have that. but I love the idea of it. Adds to the press’ special status as a Constitutionally protected industry.