A Stry.us News Experiment: The Swarm of Reporters.

We’re going to test out the reporting ‘swarm’ this summer. It’s our way of covering as many stories as we can in a short period of time — using the full resources and talents of the Stry.us team.

story by Dan Oshinsky
published June 4, 2012

In Jan. 2010, I had the privilege of spending a week in St. Petersburg, Fla., with the staff at Poynter. Stry.us had been off the road for about four months, and I was losing steam by the day. Spending that week at Poynter kept me afloat, got me energized again — and pushed me to keep applying for grants and fellowships, and to keep networking.

Had that been all to come from the time I spent there, I’d be saying “Dayenu.” But another wonderful thing came out of that week:

The swarm.

I was speaking with Poynter’s Wendy Wallace about the idea behind Stry.us — the whole “band of reporters in pursuit of storytelling” pitch you’ve heard from me many times over — when she said, “Oh, so your reporters will just swarm a story?”

I loved that phrasing. Let’s find stories and swarm every inch of them.

But like any good idea, the swarm has gone through a few iterations. We’re swarming Springfield right now, with this band of reporters covering the city as best we can. But we’re also attempting mini-swarms.

That idea — the idea of a small-scale swarm — came from something the Orange County Register did earlier this year. They sent 70 reporters to cover opening day for the Angels. In one day, they tried to cover an event from as many angles as they could.

Jordan and I think we can attempt a few of these ourselves, where we send the entire team to cover a single story for a day. We’ll pair the reporters into teams and tell them to bring back great stories by the end of the day. The pluses, on our end:

  1. We can turn around a big story in a single day.
  2. It gives our reporters a chance to take a break from other reporting that they’ve been slogging through for days/weeks.
  3. By sending our reporters in pairs, it offers opportunities for teamwork.

Last Monday was our first attempt at the swarm. We sent the reporters out on Memorial Day, and they brought back a couple great stories. Jordan worked with the team to package the thing into a cohesive narrative. By morning of the next day, it was live on the site.

A few weeks from now, we’ll be trying another one in Joplin. That city is about an hour’s drive from here, and I don’t want our team to lose too much time driving to far-away cities. So we’re going to go and swarm that city for a day — maybe two — and bring back lots of great stores in a short timeframe. (There’ll be plenty of prep work done before we go out, of course.)

It’s just one more way we’re attempting to utilize our reporting talents to bring you great stories from Springfield.