By Linda Lockhart, Beacon staff
I spent a few days last week in St. Paul, Minn., recharging my Public Insight Network batteries at PIN Camp 2. The Beacon has been a PIN partner, teaming with the Nine Network of Public Media, since October 2008,
when we hit the ground running with our coverage of the presidential election. I’ve had the good fortune to serve as the Beacon’s PIN analyst since the start.
Since then, this fantastic journalism tool has helped the Beacon and the Nine Network connect with, and learn from, more than 2,700 folks through the metropolitan St. Louis region and beyond — some from as far away as Alaska and Australia. These sources have shared their insights on many topics, ranging from What does Memorial Day mean to you? to How’s life as a grandparent? Beacon reporter Kristen Hare is using the responses to the latter question to help inform her reporting in her Coming of Age series.
When readers respond to these queries, they are volunteering to become sources for the Beacon either now or at some later date. I share the responses with Beacon editors and reporters, who decide which sources to contact and whether to include them in Beacon reports. At the Nine Network, PIN sources are often invited to join panel discussions. Together, we have asked PIN sources to share their insight in many ways, including telling us what kind of coverage they want in this year’s election season.
PIN sources may also use the network to suggest story ideas to us. And they also may be contacted by American Public Media, the PIN parent organization, or by other PIN partners, for stories they are preparing.
Growing from about dozen partner news organizations that were in the network when the Beacon first
came aboard, the PIN today has more than 70 partnerss, including 56 public media organizations. Among them: California Watch, Twin Cities Public Television, KUOW radio in Seattle, the Miami Herald, the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, and Harvest Public Media in Kansas City.
In short, I tell everyone I meet that the PIN is here to find out what you know and what you want to know. Everyone has insight into something. And the Beacon hopes that by tapping into this vast pool of knowledge, we can offer reports that are informed by real people. People just like you.
To learn more about the PIN, or to sign up to become a source and start informing our coverage, click here.
I learned many new things at PIN camp. With apologies to David Letterman and “The Late Show,” I’m sharing with you:
Top 10 Things I Learned At PIN Camp
10. Be ambitious.
9. Turn story subjects into storytellers.
8. Whenever possible, push the envelope.
7. Twitter, SoundCloud, Tumblr and Storify are our friends.
6. PIN shops come in many sizes. Some, such as the Beacon, have a lone analyst working with a small, but scrappy bunch of reporters. Others, such as APM, have the luxury of several PIN analysts, a PIN editor, a PIN-dedicated reporter, and dozens of others who share a passion for the PIN.
5. PIN-informed reporting can take many forms. There is no absolute “right way” to share the insights we receive.
4. Old-school journalism rules still apply: accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!
3. When you put 40 journalists and associates in one room, chaos AND innovative ideas are bound break out.
2. Everyone gets it when someone uses words like PINtastic and PINteresting.
1. S’mores taste just as good now as they did when I as 11, but now I have to be careful not to get melted chocolate and marshmallow goo on my laptop computer.