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David Cohn pegs a newsroom as a cafe where people can hang out and, through food and drink purchase, provide an alternate source of revenue for reporting. Twenty percent of every coffee you bought might go to reporting in your local community, or something like that. For Steve Outing, the newsroom as a cafe is a place for your people to connect so that you can have greater access to your community. Both of these are pieces of a bigger picture that’s been stewing in me for a couple of months; dessert and beer at the Pied Cow on Belmont last night provided a photograph to illustrate my idea.
It’s not just about using a different industry to add to reporting revenue, but rather repositioning the news organization as the information hub for the community. The newsroom as a cafe should be an 18th century salon, or space for the leading discussions of the day to take place, ferment, and spawn action.
Mark this idea as incomplete until I can start working on it. At the moment, I think it would include:
Realtime data streams about the community on the walls. Twitter, Flickr, and every other service that expresses data against geography in some regard. The reporting work done by the news organization and stringers would come in realtime as well; see the reporting as it happens. You could build an app that visualized the trending topics of the aggregate of those services.
Editorial meetings that are open to the public. Highly-engaged members of the community can come in and participate in the process to decide what gets reported on each week. All of the possibilities are generated beforehand with a kickass web app where authenticated people help identify all of the things that need to be reported on in the community (i.e. information that needs to be generated).
Workshops for community youth on hacking new tools to mash up regional data. Part of the attendance requirement would be that they then have to give a presentation back to the community on how they did it.
Equipment rental. Members can check out audio recorders or digital SLRs to cover the local city council meeting.
Chai, but not the spiced kind. Just straight up black tea, milk, and sugar.