Deseret News reaches out to community writers

Published: Thursday, Aug. 18 2011 12:43 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Already recognized as a go-to source for high school coverage, the Deseret News is stretching its technology and journalism resources to include more prep coverage this year — but not on its own.

The news organization is welcoming student and community involvement like never before, urging citizens to participate in its news production by submitting stories and photographs about events in their community.

"Young people and the leaders associated with them deserve to have their stories told," said Matt Sanders, director of Deseret Connect, a freelance contributor network that regularly publishes stories through several media channels such as Deseret News and KSL. "But news organizations can't do it on their own. We need the help of the community."

On a typical fall Friday night, the Deseret News dispatches eight to 10 full- and part-time reporters to cover high school football games. The paper also employs a team of "scoreboarders" who crowd newsroom cubicles every week to collect scores and statistics from high school coaches from around the state.

As much as this this all-hands-on-deck operation has positively impacted communities, sports editor Kent Condon believes more can be done to highlight youths and their accomplishments, especially considering that roughly 10,000 hard-fought competitions and performances will play out among more than 130 Utah schools this year on courts, tracks, stages and fields; each representing several families with as much or more interest in the process than its final-score conclusion.

Remarkable news and feature stories about triumphs and trends that tie communities together are going untold every week. It's a coverage gap Condon and James Edward, the Deseret News' prep editor, recognize and hope to bridge with active remote participation.

"Since the Des News has limited resources and can’t possibly cover every game with a full- or even part-time writer, we need to be creative," Condon said. "That’s where Deseret Connect comes in."

Deseret Connect highlights

Students and local community members can visit deseretconnect.com and create a personal publishing account, complete with a photo, brief bio and contact information — so editors can reach writers.

Once DC users sign in, they can request membership into various publishing groups, organized by various topics.

There are two ways to publish a story:

Members can claim an assignment from a list of editor-requested stories.

Or, members can propose their own story, or story idea, to editors.

Although submitting a story through Deseret Connect isn't quite as easy as clicking "send" on an email, there are several advantages to proposing a news or feature story through the website:

Instead of a story sitting in the email inbox of one assignment editor, dozens of editors have access to a submitted story in the Deseret Connect story queue.

And instead of wondering about the progress on a story, the website sends its members automated email notifications when a story is approved, if a story is sent back to the author's account for suggested revisions and when coaching/editing notes are added to a story.

Authors and photographers are also automatically notified when their story is published. That same notification sends them a URL link to where their story or photo gallery was published.

Additionally, authors can keep track of how many page views each story receives.

Besides offering students and community members a larger audience for their work — compared to perhaps a personal blog or Facebook page — publishing through such a transparent editing process is intended to be a learning experience. And publishing stories through a media brand can add credibility to one's resume.

Email: jhancock@desnews.com

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