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Getting the Audience Involved with "Big Small Stories"at Insajder

An advertisement for MVP, the new microsite
An advertisement for MVP, the new microsite

Often where the press is most needed as a voice of public accountability, it also faces the most serious challenges: political, economic and operational. Some news organisations are now turning to their readers to become not only supporters, but also collaborators in their work.

In the case of Insajder.net, a Belgrade-based muckraking news site, a new project focused on getting citizens involved in the editorial process is also giving a voice to local communities.

This week marks the official launch of mvp.insajder.net: “Big Small Stories”, a microsite devoted to ongoing investigations and the experiences of individuals who are impacted by corruption, graft and malfeasance on a societal scale. (MVP is the acronym for "Big small stories" in Serbian.) Initial examples include a woman who lost her apartment due to a bureaucratic whim, despite having all the correct documentation; a civil servant denied his pension; and a child with a developmental disability who requires assisted care but cannot get it from the state.

On the site, readers are able not only to follow the progress of such stories over time, but can also send their own tips and leads to the reporters via a purpose-built web form.

For a news organisation focused on transparency, it only made sense for Insajder to open up its own investigative and reporting processes to its readers. “We receive messages almost every day from citizens reporting on ways that government and institutions have failed or even worked against them,” said Brankica Stanković, editor-in-chief. “We wanted to create a dedicated space for these stories and provide a mechanism for readers to get involved.”

The solution will make the newsroom more efficient in certain ways. With the web submission form on Big Small Stories, all reader tips will go into a single database. Automating the process in this way also frees up editors’ time to deal with other things.

The microsite came about as part of a larger project to move Insajder, a longtime Sourcefabric client, from Newscoop to Superdesk Publisher as a modern digital publishing platform. It continues the spirit of our cooperation which began back in 2016 with Insajder’s migration from television broadcasting to an online platform for their videos and articles, as a way to reach a larger audience and retain their journalistic independence. (Since then, Insajder has returned to TV; a new independent station will start airing the MVP video stories this spring.)

Using Superdesk Publisher as a digital output tool will make the website a dynamic destination that is able to evolve and adapt to both editorial goals and audience interest in real time, for example by highlighting lists of curated content.

When we launched Insajder’s website on Newscoop three years ago, site traffic hit 100,000 page views and 18,000 users in the first few days after it went live. Today, Insajder.net averages more than 500,000 page views per month.

The newsroom prioritises quality journalism over clickable content. At the same time, Insajder’s reports are popular, in part because there are almost no other outlets reporting on corruption, organised crime and other dark corners of business and politics in the Balkans in the same way. The ruling party controls most national media in Serbia, and keeps a tight lid on issues such as nepotism and privatisations.

“We support Insajder’s uncompromising pursuit of the truth, and are here to provide the technology to make their journalism more accessible and engaging to readers,” said Sourcefabric Managing Director Sava Tatić.

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