Scott Clark and Dwight Silverman – Houston Chronicle (

Posted on 08. Oct, 2007 by in Big Media, Social Networking

Your work in networked/citizen/collaborative journalism.
At, the Web site for the Houston Chronicle, we began engaging readers in our coverage several years ago, sharing their photos and experiences in Houston’s flood of 2001, their opinions during the 2004 political conventions and election and their live experiences from the ballpark during the Houston Astros World Series games.  Since early 2006 we have given readers a more consistent voice with featured blogs on everything from local sports teams to parenting and birdwatching. More recently, we have expanded that interaction to include social networking features, story comments, photo galleries, group blogs and more in an area we call the chron.Commons (

What are your goals?
The basic task of journalism is to create order out of the chaos of raw information, and we believe that remains our overarching mission in the connected era. Our goal is to provide tools and a framework for Houston and its communities to cover themselves. We want to enable everyone – the garden group in the suburbs; the high school football team with dreams of making state; the neighborhood association struggling with revitalization issues near downtown; the backyard philosopher with an idea she thinks can change the world – to tell their story. As journalists, we ultimately want to collaborate with all these voices to paint a clearer picture of what Houston is, and what it’s becoming.

Notable achievements? was one of the first major newspaper Web sites to embrace blogging both by staff and readers, launching our first blogs in early 2004. We’ve been careful to emphasize comments as much as what our staffers say in our blogs, creating rich and loyal communities around each blog. We were named the Best Blogging Newspaper by Jay Rosen and his NYU students in March 2006 as a result, and several of our bloggers – in sports, entertainment and news – have received national media and peer recognition for their work.

We’ve also built a substantial, vibrant and growing community around reader content, and are utilizing it in our day-to-day coverage of Houston. Photos and news stories submitted by readers now are published regularly in our newspaper, particularly in our neighborhood sections.

Lesson you’ve learned (including mistakes you’ve made)
I think we’ve learned that, just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Simply inviting collaboration isn’t enough – we’ve found you must actively recruit for it, and give people reasons to collaborate with you. Our most successful experiences have come where producers, editors or reporters have taken ownership of the concept and worked hard to engage and develop their communities.

Are you getting revenue for this? How?
Yes. The bulk of the incremental revenue has come from the growth of advertising inventory that has accompanied the overall growth of the number of pages people are viewing on the site. The biggest impact has come from blogs and reader comments, both of which have increased the average pages per visitor significantly in the last year.

What’s next? What do you need to get to the next level?
Two things in the near term: (1) using reader interaction effectively in building communities around the site’s topical and geographical niche sites and (2) further developing a model for news coverage that turns sources into authors and readers into sources, potential putting our beat reporters in the position of conductors of this public symphony.

To do this, we will need further improvements to our reader interactive technology, the continuing willingness of the newsroom to try and to fail and some new compensation models for both our staff and their community collaborators.

Anyone you’d like to talk with, learn from, or work with at the summit

Dwight Silverman’s list:

Dave Winer

Peter Rojas (Engadget)

Steve Rubel

Robin Sloan (Current TV)

Jay Rosen

Jonathon Dube (CyberJournalist)

Steve Grove (YouTube)

Lydia West (

Jeff Jarvis

Scott Clark’s list:

Jay Rosen

Lydia West

Jeff Jarvis

Jennifer Carroll

Travis Henry

Robin Sloan

Derek Willis


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