5 Ways digital journalism puts audience at the centre


Digital storytelling is not just limited to the production of sleek web stories, with interactive visualisations or graphics. The growth in digital journalism also brings opportunities to put audiences at the centre of reportage, by allowing them to directly contribute data on the stories that matter to them the most. 

At The Coral Project, journalists have been working on ways to bring the communities they serve to the forefront of reporting. As inspiration, they collected 16 examples of audience-centred journalism. We roundup the top five of these below. 

1. Approach existing communities

That’s what ProPublica has been doing around a number of issues. Their Agent Orange work started in 2015. Instead of relying on advocacy groups to supply one or two people to interview, their database of Americans affected by Agent Orange reached 6,000 people in 2016. They achieved this through patience, respect, and meeting the communities where they were, as well as bringing them into the reporting.

Image: ProPublica engaged with existing communities through digital channels, like Facebook.

2. Allow private submissions
Reach out using tools that protect people’s privacy — such as The Coral Project's Ask tool — to collect sensitive stories about issues your readers care about. The Guardian worked with users to discuss mental health; The Marshall Project connected with victims of crime.

3. Train your audience to collect stories for you

Through community training courses and collaborative editing sessions, WYSO encourages audiences to share the stories that matter to them the most. The project, named Community Voices, has collected and showcased local perspectives on disability, memories of the Xenia Tornado, and more.

4. Ask the audience to hit record

That’s what the 538 Politics podcast did by asking listeners to share their discussions with family members about the state of American democracy via a phone number they set up for the purpose.

5. Ask for information then make a map

The Los Angeles Times reached out to residents who experienced health problems in an area that had a gas leak, then mapped their responses to impressive effect.

Image: The Los Angeles Times' Porter Ranch map.

This post is an edited extract from The Coral Protect's examples of audience-centred journalism here (CC BY 4.0). Image: Denis De Mesmaeker.