Reporter’s Notebook: How to use it

The Reporter’s Notebook brings together Facebook, Twitter, on-line forums and our own website, encouraging people to become producers as well as consumers of news. For readers, the Reporter’s Notebook gives the bare bones outline of a story we are working on, together with contact information for the reporter and specific questions and resources for readers. It also structures a way for reporters to tap into the community through a variety of social networking strategies.

<a href=”>Sample: Reporter’s Notebook

<a href=”>Sample Letter #2 – send after story is published 

Like all stories, this begins with a story query from you or a story idea from the editor. After the assignment is made, here’s what happens next:

1) The editor posts a Reporter’s Notebook page, complete with a working title and story outline. (See sample Reporter’s Notebook below) The story outline includes as many of the following as the writer and editor can assemble:

• Provocative question(s): Intended to elicit/provoke responses, with invitation to comment or to contact you.

• The story: brief statement of facts

• What’s at stake? Policy question

• What do we know so far? Links to resources, government officials, activists, articles, etc.

• How can you respond/participate? Information on community meetings, elections, government board meetings, court dates, and second invitation to respond to you.

• Contact info can be either your email or

2) The editor adds the individual Reporter’s Notebook page for your story to the Stories we are working on box that runs in Column 3 of the Daily Planet. Check your Reporter’s Notebook page and the Stories we are working on page regularly for comments from readers. (You will furnish a list of everyone who makes contact in the story documentation form.) The editor also Tweets and Facebooks the Reporter’s Notebook on the TCDP Twitter and Facebook feeds – you should do the same, to enlist your own networks.

3) Within 48 hours of the assignment, you write a letter (See Sample Letter #1 below) and send it to:

• at least three people or organizations asking them for input on article-in-progress or comments to forum after article is posted

• the appropriate E-democracy forum and (if possible) one or two other community forums (for example, the MPS Forum for Minneapolis schools articles)

Think creatively and flexibly about ways to get the word out to concerned parties

4) You send more information for the Reporter’s Notebook page, as the story develops. This information might include a link to a report or article published elsewhere, or a date and time for a community meeting or a link to a community forum discussion.

5) When the article is published, you notify sources and anyone who has contacted you to tell them that the story is published –and to invite them to comment on the story. (See Sample Letter #2 below – below.)

Sample: Reporter’s Notebook

Should swingsets be banned from city parks and backyards? Should the city adopt a swingset seatbelt ordinance? Or are falling-off-the-swing injuries part of growing up?

The Story: A proposal before the Twinkietown City Council would ban all backyard swingsets. Proponents of the measure cite a recent spate of injuries to young children. Opponents urge adoption of a swingset seatbelt ordinance instead of an outright ban.

What’s at stake: Proponents say this ordinance could save lives. Opponents say it will lead to more childhood obesity, and damage the struggling swingset industry.

What do we know so far? A recent CDC report on swingset injuries can be found at An op-ed on the subject by pediatrician W.T Smith appeared in the Twinkietown Gazette,

How can citizens respond/participate? A council hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 21 at Room 221, Twinkietown City Hall. Residents are also invited to email their comments to the their city council member – click here for links. Or post your comments below or send them to me directly at 

Hi! I am YOUR NAME HERE, a citizen journalist reporting on assignment for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. You were suggested to me as someone who might have information to contribute to a story that I am working on: WORKING TITLE OF STORY

If you go to this page: INSERT URL, you will find my Reporter’s Notebook, which lists some of the information I have compiled so far. If you have information to contribute, or if you feel that the reporting so far is missing some important perspectives, please let me know – either by posting a comment on the page, or by responding by email. It would be great to have a brief quote that summarizes your views on this subject.

If you are willing to be contacted by phone, please send me a number where you can be reached. Please feel free to forward this letter to anyone you know who might be interested in contributing information or opinions.



P.S. To see a list all of the stories we are working on, go to the Daily Planet homepage ( and click on Stories We Are Working On in column three.


NAME OF STORY was published today on the TC Daily Planet at LINK HERE. Thanks for your interest in / contribution to the story. I hope you will go to TCDAILYPLANET.NET and read the story and then give us your opinion in a comment. Please forward this email to anyone you think would be interested in this story.





notebook and pen © Kirsty Pargeter –; reporter’s computer © Kheng Guan Toh –; email logo © carmen meiring –