One afternoon a few months ago, my police scanner at the Chi-Town Daily News started burbling with reports that construction workers had been injured in a building collapse in the Wicker Park neighborhood.
Most news organizations would have reacted to this in a time-honored tradition — hand the address to the cops reporter, call a photographer. If it’s a TV station, get the helicopter in the air.
To my ongoing dismay, the Daily News doesn’t have a helicopter. Or a cops reporter, or staff photographers. We’re a two-year-old, nonprofit, online newspaper with an annual budget of less than $200,000 and an office full of thrift-store desks.
But we do have a network of three dozen citizen journalists spread throughout the city, and some powerful software that enables us to keep track of where they live and what they’re interested in covering. That system allowed us to find a citizen journalist who lived near the building collapse and get him to the scene — within minutes. Read more