The future of journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks,” said Mark Briggs. One of the greatest challenges facing journalists now is how to manage and leverage news conversation in social media networks.

The problem with news as a conversation is that participants are rarely as constructive or respectful as journalists and other readers would like. There are either too many conversations for news organizations to manage, or there are too few comments that generate actual conversation around the news.

While some journalists shy away from the interactiveness of reader comments, Doug Feaver, creator of the dot.comments blog, suggests that “comments provide a forum for readers to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article, to talk to each other and to bloviate.”

Feaver makes a great argument – news conversation does have wonderful benefits, such as:

  • they provide transparency on the reporting process
  • they enable an immediate feedback loop
  • they spread awareness of news coverage through word-of-mouth marketing

News conversation allows more tips to be discovered and more links to be shared, according to BeatBlogging‘s Patrick Thornton. Knowledgable users can provide journalists with tips, links additional insight or even clarify a post.

Journalists should make news participatory so that audiences can contribute to news and information by suppling additional:

  • photos
  • videos
  • event lists (on calendar sites)
  • edits (on wiki sites)
  • message board posts
  • blog posts
  • votes and recommendations
  • promotin on other social media sites (ex: Digg and SumbleUpon)

There is the 1-10-100 rule for participatory online community sites that states:

  • 1% of the user community actual create content
  • 10% of the user community will synthesize the content by posting comments, e-mailing links to friends, authoring blog posts on separate sites and linking back to it, etc.
  • 100% of the user community will benefit from the actions of the first two groups

Journalists should be responsible for keeping all news conversations accurate and ethical. They can do this by:

  • setting guidelines for participants
  • monitoring offensive postings
  • knowing their legal responsibilities
  • correcting errors