This is why I ask for help on stories. And this is why it matters.

Jun 7, 2013

Credit voxphoto / flickr

This morning I was scolded via email by a listener who'd gotten a request from me for help on a story we're working on right now. (For a list of some of the stories see below.)

One of the things the listener objected to was that I was asking for help in the first place. This person felt I must not understand the issue I wanted to know more about. That by asking for audience experiences I was trying to pass off any research I could do myself onto folks too busy with their own lives to also do my work for me. 

It may seem obvious to some people, but apparently the reason I still want help on stories and always try to cast as wide a net as I can could do with some explaining.

It makes sense to ask for help on stories

  • Stories are better when the same group of people aren't always informing those stories. Those stories are boring and they can easily be one-sided. Journalists are busy, they've got their own networks, and if we don't work against it our audience can miss out on perspectives and people that would help us better understand what's happening in our state. Sending out requests for help with stories via facebook, twitter, our website, or the Public Insight Network is not the only way we get out of the echo chamber, but it's one of the ways. 
  • It's easy to find a story, but it's hard to tell just how big that story is or just how many people are affected by it until you ask a lot of people. Every time we ask for listener help we're trying to give more context to our reporting. 
  • And yes it can be super-efficient to just put a question you're wondering about as a journalist out there to lots of people at once. We're listener-supported. Our time is your money, so if we can do things more quickly without sacrificing quality it seems like a win-win.

So here are the stories we're looking for help on right now

If you have people in your personal networks who can help us understand these issues please pass this along. Just follow the hyper-links to answer our questions.

If you don't have insight on these stories, you know we value listener experience. So share your story with us anytime. Really. 

  • We're going to Lake County Michigan to better understand why the county has the worst statistics for kids in a lot of important areas, like poverty and high school graduation rates. We're looking for insight from people who live in the county or who have worked with families and kids there.
  • There is an ongoing problem with hospital nutrient shortages for some of the sickest kids and babies around the state, even in the best hospitals. It's happening people. If it's affected your life as a provider, parent or patient we'd like to learn more.
  • We've also heard that some parents are sending their children to live with relatives in other places because they are worried about violence where they live over the summer. If you've had any experience with this, let us know.