Live chats: playing host to a mass interview

There are close to 1 million people in our city. I’m willing to bet they can come up with more questions than the 100 folks in our newsroom can.

For that reason, I love that newsrooms like ours are starting to change the way they are exchanging information. We’re no longer broadcasting news, we’re hosting the conversation.

Live chats are a great way to connect our readers directly with the source. I think of it as throwing a fantastic cocktail party with all the mover and shakers… and our readers. All we do is make the connection, supply the venue, and watch the conversation unfold.

Today at lunch, for example, we’ll have three of Ottawa’s top home renovators take questions from our readers about their projects.

Yesterday, we invited three prominent cultural thinkers (including a mom blogger) to talk to our Deputy Editorial Page Editor and readers about Hallowe’en – and are we afraid to let our kids enjoy it?

We use  Scribblelive for our chats, an html-based system that shows up on an iPad (indeed, I’ve fixed things on its dashboard from my iPad) and its contents are searchable by search engines. Previously we used Cover-it-live, but because it is a flash-based system, we moved to Scribble.

There might be a news that comes out of these chats – as when we spoke to the Director of Education for the local school board – or there might not be.

I’m currently coordinating with the Mayor’s office to have him on in the next week or two to talk to readers (a busy schedule to work around). This will be his third live chat with our readers, and they ask him everything: from tax increases to bus route changes to his favourite movie.  It’s Air Force One by the way.

To his credit, he answers all questions put to him.

While there’s usually a story out of the mayor’s chat, it’s okay if these things don’t break news. The point of these live chats is to give readers access to our sources. To bring our audience into the fold early in the process, and let them ask the questions.

This  gives us crucial insight into what our readers care about.

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