While studying journalism at the University of Massachusetts, my favorite course was Citizen Journalism and the Web. In the course, taught by Professor Jill Lang, we studied the emerging trend of citizens reporting on issues at the micro-level. Professor Lang predicted citizen reporting would become a functional segment of the journalism field, and in 2011 her words have proven to be true. Today blogs and community news sites command the attention and respect of news consumers, and most major news organizations have hyper-local sections along with a roster of blogs. For many organizations, the blog or community site is the news product.
Tackable, a new, free app for iPad, is taking citizen journalism to the next level. Tackable provides a live look at everything happening in your city. You can connect instantly with people witnessing what you’re interested in. With Tackable, stories appear on a map in real time where they happened. The app identifies your location and extracts articles nearby. You can also search for events happening in your neighborhood, or photos people have submitted.
For example, if there is a shooting, the story will appear at the exact intersection where the crime occurred. You’ll see the article as it was reported in the newspaper as well as user-generated content that came in around the same time, including comments and photos from witnesses. Tackable’s map feature makes news events more tangible and accessible to readers, giving them access to the community’s experience of an event alongside the professional reporting of it.
Co-founder Luke Stangel described Tackable to Robert Scoble in a Building 43 interview in the following way: “Imagine cutting up your newspaper into ten thousand little pieces and putting the best of the best on a map…and also bringing in community… what your neighbors are talking about.” Stangel likens Tackable to a ten-layer cake with layers of professional news content, citizen reporting, events, deals, ads, traffic information, weather forecasts, and more.
Toward the end of the interview, Stangel referenced a blog post by Scoble that drew criticism and sparked debate when it was published in 2007. My own journalism class used Scoble’s article, which declared newspapers dead, as a springboard for its discussion on the future of the journalism industry. Stangel argued that newspapers aren’t dead at all, but the industry is married to a format that is increasingly not working for the majority of people. He hopes Tackable will usher in a super-futuristic newspaper era where the media will focus on content discovery speed, location and personalization.
With a combined daily circulation of 650,000, dozens of newspapers–including The San Jose Mercury News, The Oakland Tribune, and the San Mateo County Times–use Tackable to augment their reporting. From what I can tell, the Tackable team is off to an impressive start.