Avoiding Pitfalls

There are inevitable challenges to doing this type of project. Depending on the number of partners you're working with, you may encounter some of these issues.

The more opportunities to explain how the project works and the rules of participation, the better: in writing, by phone, in person — whatever the case may be. We talk to all partners by phone before onboarding, then provide written onboarding materials and training materials, as well as opportunities for online trainings and webinars.

While some journalists may express enthusiasm, they may not make it all the way through the onboarding process, and they may stop responding to you if they're unable or unwilling to continue to participate. Not every partner will necessarily produce a story for the project, unless you make that a condition of participation. We do not.

Given the unfortunate realities of our industry, turnover is a serious issue. Sometimes great people switch jobs or are laid off, and it can be an uphill battle to find new people in that newsroom to participate and onboard from scratch.

Reporters are busy and tend to be reactive rather than proactive, so it's useful to find people working on longer-term projects who have a greater chance of actually doing reporting and making use of the project. Also, those who are less proactive may get annoyed when they lose out on tips, but it's important to reiterate how the project works and encourage them to take the initiative rather than waiting to be notified.