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About those GOP press releases ... sometimes, we stub our toe
We're in the midst of big changes to how we cover health in our community.
In the big picture, it's less about us and more about you. Less, "we talk, you listen," more, "let's start a conversation." As part of that process, we have an interim health site up and running right now. Journal-World reporter Karrey Britt took the plunge into the digital space to be our lead reporter on the health project, which will ultimately become a new site we're calling HealthCommons. We hope to unveil it in early 2010.
In the meantime, Karrey's working to try out techniques on LJWorld.com that we will want to use on our new health site. In recent weeks, you might have seen her tweeting live from an event, or encouraging other reporters and the community to post personal stories of encounters with the health system and trying to find tips and information you'd never expect from a newspaper to share with you.
We also have formed a series of advisory groups that will help us determine what is and isn't the right content for our health site. You'll soon see this group of community members blogging on our Web site. Part of our advisory group meeting this week was a discussion about the proposed healthcare legislation before Congress. It was an active discussion with people expressing very passionate opinions about whether it was the right or wrong change to our healthcare system.
So, when a couple of legislators put out two press releases about that very legislation, Karrey knew it was something that would prompt a very active online conversation. That was part of her goal — which is a primary goal of our new site — to prompt people to have a conversation. In that sense, posting the press releases was 100 percent successful.
But where we failed was in not explaining what our goal was with this; not to pass professional politician's talking points as a verified news story, but rather to give people a place from which they could start a conversation. And to let people know what the politicians who represent them are thinking and — probably more importantly — saying. If you disagree with their opinions; if you think that the current healthcare system is broken and needs help, we want you to know who you should be talking to. But we didn't really explain any of that to you.
So, what have we learned? We've learned that we need to be even more transparent with you. Part of our goal with our new HealthCommons site will be to create a trusted place where you can get the facts and have a conversation about how we can be a healthier community.
Practically, for us, that means we'll probably do more explaining, summarizing and linking to press releases, and less straight posting of politician's talking points. We'll also try to do a better job of letting both sides of the debate know what we're doing. If you're pro the new bill, we want to let people know where to find your opinions. If you're anti, there's a place for you too.
Ultimately, that's what has to be at the heart of our new site, and the heart of what we deliver you: trusted information, balanced opinions and a place for respectful conversations that lead to a healthier Lawrence and a healthier Northeast Kansas.