Local journalism and engagement has always been an important topic to news publishers and journalists, but recent reports have found that reader engagement is low and that most news consumers have little understanding of the journalism process.
Located in California’s Wine Country, Sonoma West Publishers, owners of the Sonoma West Times & News, Healdsburg Tribune, Cloverdale Reveille and Windsor Times, recently partnered with Hearken to find a solution to this dilemma and launched Sonoma Curious (SoCurious) last fall.
Each publication’s website provides a box where news consumers can ask questions about their respective communities. After the paper has received several questions, they will allow readers to vote on which they would most like to see addressed. Journalists will then investigate to find the answer, and may even ask the inquisitor themselves to join in on the process if interested.
SoCurious will also be used to provide the papers with news and community topics for live events and town-hall type meetings. Rollie Atkinson, publisher and managing editor for Sonoma West Publishers, explained the purpose is to “deepen our current news conversation with existing readers and website visitors, plus attempt to reach new segments of our communities that we were not engaging previously.”
“SoCurious is dedicated to taking our journalism exactly where our readers want us to go,” he said. “Instead of sitting in our newsroom and staff meetings and making the same story assignments we’ve been making for decades, we are creating a ‘reader-powered newsroom.’”