Media: The Christian Science Monitor is thinking about the best ways to turn reading into action

June 30, 2014

niemanlab.orgby Jeff Israely
Lucia Moses has a story in Digiday about a new redesign of The Christian Science Monitor’s website. Here’s a promo video for it:

But aesthetics aside, the most interesting change on the site is one still in progress. The Monitor has added a new Take Action page to its top nav and wants to feature, at the bottom of some stories, specific ways for readers to do something about the issue it’s about. Says editor Marshall Ingwerson:

At the Monitor, we’re committed to providing the most illuminating, non-partisan reporting possible. That will never change. However, we’re also interested in providing paths to action for readers who’ve been inspired by a story or something happening in the world. Below, you’ll find a few of the simple, initial ideas we’re considering. We’d love to get your feedback. Which paths to action would you welcome and use?

The desire to a path for readers to “take action” after reading a story is a common plaint in some corners. Ethan Zuckerman was just talking about that at a panel we were on last week. Elise Hu and Laura Amico both wrote about similar ideas in our year-end predictions package, and the solutions journalism movement is playing in the same yard.

But it’s sometimes proved difficult to align that instinct with traditional journalistic norms around the view from nowhere and objectivity.

Like other places, the Monitor hasn’t figured out exactly what taking action will look like yet. (There’s a screenshot of what looks like a draft version of it at 42 seconds into the video above.) But it’s considering a number of ideas and putting forward for reader feedback. It’s a nice taxonomy of some of the different ways to prompt reader action:

Conversation Starter: A set of relevant questions — with additional background information provided as necessary — on a specific news topic to help you initiate a dinner or a party conversation. For example, “Would you rather donate time or money to stop elephant poaching? Why?”

People Making a Difference: Read profiles of (and get inspired by) ordinary people who are making effective, positive changes in their communities.

Volunteer Match: Enter your location and what cause is of interest to you and this widget will provide you with a listing of volunteer opportunities so you too can take action.

Contact Your Congressperson: Not sure of your congressional district or who your representatives are? Let the Monitor assist you by matching your ZIP code to your congressional district and providing contact information so you can voice your opinion on issues that matter to you.

Connect: Information on and links to reputable and relevant organizations that will help you get involved by learning more, making a financial contribution or otherwise taking action to support a cause of interest to you.

You, dear reader, should Take Action by leaving a comment on what you think about these ideas and whether you’d like any of them (or something else entirely) on your news site.

— Joshua Benton

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