In an interview with Cindy Royal, associate professor at Texas State University, New York Times’ newsroom interactive technologies editor Aron Pilhofer discusses the Times’ graphics and data teams and being part of, what he describes as, one of the most collaborative newsrooms he’s worked in.
“Bergens Tidende, our local paper, has a shining example today of how a local newspaper can gather and report local news simultaneously by coordinating reader participation in a very easy-to-contribute mashup focusing on an issue of huge importance to Bergeners right now, though it’s of absolutely no wider interest”, writes Jill Walker Rettberg, an associate professor at the University of Bergen, on her blog.
That issue is traffic: Bergen, a city on the west coast of Norway, is currently building a light rail system through Bergen, and the road works and constantly changing detours are causing major traffic problems.
“We decided to do something different to report on the exasperating traffic situation in the city, ” Jan Stian Vold of Bt.no told me.
What the news site came up with, in addition to their normal coverage, was a Google Map where readers could plot in where they encountered traffic problems.
It asked its readers: ‘Where are the bottlenecks in the Bergen-traffic? How does the construction of the light rail system effect you?’
Walker Rettberg is also rather impressed by the anti-spam measures: “You enter your mobile phone number and instantly receive an SMS with a code that you then type into the website to confirm that you’re an actual person and that you’re a different person to all the other people who’ve entered their comments,” she writes.
This works as an efficient way of identifying people as all mobile phone numbers are registered by law in Norway.
Requiring users to register does raise the threshold for participation, but this has not deterred Bergeners, as around 400 people have reported their traffic problems so far, according to Vold.