Monday, July 13, 2009

Cover It Live...But Expertise Helps

I'm watching the Sotomayor hearing on the Washington Post website (NPR's website was a pain in the ass...not everyone can listen to a radio at their desk, NPR! You lost me.) WP is using software called Cover It Live to provide live updates from their reporters. It's terrific, especially for me, since I am chained to my desk digging into research about public media models for Free Press.

Folks like me can post questions on to the blog, and the reporters respond in real time. Everything from how long can we expect the confirmation to take, what are the politics behind the Judiciary Committee, etc.

Cover It Live is facilitating an interactivity not even broadcast can replicate. But it did get me thinking: you still need people with knowledge of Senate confirmation hearings, ideology, and the politics of U.S. Supreme Court nominations. You still need reporters!

However, to some degree you need fewer reporters. One of the ways Free Press, where I'm working over the summer, is experimenting is crowdsourcing. Cover It Live could be a tool to solicit experts - constitutional law professors, executive directors of watch dog groups like the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, etc. - to contribute. I don't know if Cover It Live has this capacity, but I saw a demonstration of a program used by qualitative social science researchers, AtlasTi, that allows the researcher to group themes across media (so you could have pictures, audio, text cross linked and grouped according to themes you set up). That could be a very powerful tool for reporters to monitor trends or identify issues that come up during events like confirmation hearings.

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