Starting with PIN - The PIN Process

Michael Caputo -

Now we’ll take a step back and talk a bit about the theory behind using the Public Insight Network – the PIN Process. Think of it as a collaboration between your newsroom and the audience.

The PIN Process

You can think of this as a cycle … a kind of call and response with hundreds of sources. Let’s explain a bit more.

You send sources questions based on what they know, what they have experienced, what they understand. You’ll have biographic information about sources – the year they were born, their gender  … how they describe their race or ethnic background. You’ll know their occupation and interests.  All of this defines expertise when using PIN. It forms the basis for asking questions.

When we get responses – we sift through submissions by learning about who responded. What neighborhoods did they come from? What age groups? We can start to spot trends by understanding who provided certain answers. We begin to get a handle on what we’ve heard.

What’s really interesting – the more you ask, the more you learn about a source. We search for sources not only by their democgraphic information… but by the narrative of their previous experiences. Through one query, for example, we learned that a source is a single mother. In the next response she tells us she is “below the poverty line” and that she is a homeowner.  Using keywords in our search, we can find her when doing a story on --- foreclosure. We develop a relationship because we better tailor the questions based on what she has told us.

And, of course… we use this information to tell our stories. These sources show up in our pieces or maybe are part of our talk programming. But we also are guided to story angles by these responses.

Where PIN works

You can quickly find relevant sources on a tight deadline. You can target questions to people who have a connection to a subject. You can also get a sense of what your broader audience wants to know. Think about the editorial room – or that story meeting with an editor. Now you can literally bring more voices to the decision about what story to cover or what angle to take.  If you have a hunch about a story –  you can test it.  You could be surprised by angles you never thought of. You can even reveal the questions people want answered from those in positions of power. The PIN can set your news agenda.

Take a minute to think using our digital space. We, in the news business, have social media at our disposal. Does Facebook and Twitter help us connect to the audience? Sure. But how do you capture what folks tell you on these channels?  The PIN can be a companion –with social media – for making sense of conversations you are having in the social space.

The PIN Campaign

We have one more concept to give you – the idea of leveraging the Public Insight Network to create a new dynamic with the audience. A public-facing display of learning and sharing. We talk about it as a campaign – one that creates a collaborative with the audience… where you are sharing the process of reporting. Making this public only inspires more sharing. And it simply creates new content. Here’s one example from American Public Media’s PIN reporting team.

One example of a campaign

APM decided to report on veterans’ issues – such as the level of health care for vets.

They used their webspace as a means of communicating what they asked sources, what they heard and pointed to the stories they created from the discussion. You could call it a blog. You could call it a web vertical. You could also think of it as original reporting for your website.  For example, here’s a post that compiles recent queries to veterans  including one query on “what service men and women left behind or brought back" from combat. 

The link leads directly to the query produced.

The webpage then featured responses to the question --- like this one by a soldier who left his copy of the Constitution behind in Iraq.

Here’s another PIN call and response around a query on what it is like to be a veteran attending college. 

Imagine a webpage on a topic your newsroom covers: education spending, public safety, small business . Imagine a page that includes posts that talk about the PIN queries you are sending out, responses coming back in to the newsroom, what lines of pursuit your reporters are taking. Imagine it weaves in other news articles and information.

This “campaign” reveals your journalism in a more collaborative way – using the PIN as the engine. The PIN process becomes not just a means for getting sources – but a way to involve your audience in your journalism.

Insight Pages 

And finally, PIN provides you an easy way to showcase the work - the Insight Pages. You begin to create these when you began to build that question form. 

This page not only provides the questions for sources to answer 

This is also where you can display vetted responses, where you can curate answers that you put on display. Imagine using these READY-MADE pages as part of your online news page - whether as an embed or as a link to the full page itself.

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