Other articles by the same author
From The Rapidian staff*: A major element of The Rapidian, if not the most important, is community involvement.
Without interaction between readers and reporters, the Rapidian wouldn't be able to offer much, which is why we try to encourage commenting, sharing and communication whenever possible. It's what keeps the conversation going and what The Rapidian is based on.
Poynter.org has described citizen journalism as open-source reporting. The structure and means to contribute are available and open to anyone, and the opportunity to leave and receive comments provides a conversation where news ideas and advice can be quickly transferred.
By commenting on stories, readers can help Rapidian reporters and editorial volunteers pick up on coverage tips that might have been missed or need clarification, or simply provide an appropriate atta-boy for a writer's hard work. By using The Rapidian's storybank, registered users can provide story ideas that will be sent out to a large list of contributing reporters. Events posted to our calendar also provide story or photo ideas and avenues for contributors to delve into. To be able to comment, submit a story pitch page or add a calendar item, a reader must first register on the site. Once that request is approved, the interaction can begin.
A story on running into celebrities by Erin Wilson was shared on Facebook 75 times and tweeted 12. From those interactions, not only did the story reach more readers, it created a more robust conversation about the topic on both social networks and elicited celebrity stories from others besides Wilson.
Citizen Journalism Coordinator Denise Cheng's piece on naming inanimate objects was written specifically for the purpose of getting comments and finding out others' stories. It became a living, growing feature.
Often times, Rapidian readers e-mail the general address, firstname.lastname@example.org, or myself, Content Facilitator Matthew Russell, email@example.com, to provide story ideas, which are then either sent out to specific reporters or disseminated through weekly story pitches. This is helpful but sometimes begs the question, why only e-mail a story pitch when it can also be posted in the storybank and possibly even the calendar?
By adding Grand Rapids-based photos to our Flickr group, photographers can supplement our coverage with much-needed illustration. To do so, a photographer must have a Flickr account and submit their work to The Rapidian group pool. The rules of our pool (apart from that banning urination) are in place to help keep it useful for contributors.
Reporters contribute their stories and viewpoints of the important issues in Grand Rapids. Readers take this information and contribute their own impressions through sharing content via social media, commenting on the stories and e-mailing The Rapidian staff directly. Those behind the scenes -- editorial mentors, IT staff, our publisher, new media planner, citizen journalism coordinator and myself -- also help by arranging the way Rapidian coverage is organized, pitched and presented and how the site is used based on input from the community.
I like to ride bikes, make cookies and feed the homeless peanut butter sandwiches. I really like Grand Rapids.