Participatory Journalism Final Self-Evaluation

The Missourian Outreach Team is responsible for connecting the newspaper's readers to the organization. The team oversees the Missourian's Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat accounts as well as creates opportunities to involve the audience into the news-making process.


  1. As a member of the outreach team, I have created Snapchat stories, Twitter posts and Facebook posts, monitored reader comments and local social media conversations, reached out for readers to write their own stories for the Missourian, aggregated and published audience's social posts about particular topics and produced reports about user-analytics with suggestions for the newsroom on how to gain more audience traction.

    Below are several products I either produced or helped create:
  2. 1. Snapchat story for CoMoYouKnow program about Bookmobile, Jr. and #ReadABookDay
  3. During the the Summer of 2016, two other classmates and I performed in-depth interviews about Snapchat to create a how-to guide for the Missourian. We interviewed nine social media managers and reporters at various media publications across the country. To continue this work, I joined the Missourian's outreach team, and with the help of Matt Dulin, director of community outreach for the Columbia Missourian, we created a (mostly) weekly Snapchat story program called "CoMoYouKnow." It's meant to showcase the history, events, people and things that make Columbia unique.

    For this particular Snapchat story, though there were certain technical and storytelling aspects I could have done better, it overall encapsulated what the Missourian should strive for on Snapchat:

    *Informational, yet fun:People use Snapchat often for fun, personal conversations between friends. However, with the Missourian, we still want to keep a balance between news and fun. Snapchat should be a continuation of the brand. With this story, I was able to mix reporting about Bookmobile, Jr. along with cute photos of a young girl picking out DVDs and a woman showcasing her guilty-pleasure book series.

    *Audience participation: Not only did I have four Columbia residents on the story, but also they represented a range of voices from the community.

    *Visually pleasing: The colorful books in such a small space made for a neat experience to photograph and film. With Snapchat, you have to think visually and decide what's the most important aspect to include. You must keep in mind the audience loses attention quickly, so you need to be creative.

    *Twitter interaction: From the Missourian's Twitter, I tweeted a photo with images from the Snapchat story and the Missourian's Snapcode. I also tagged Daniel Boone Regional Library, which oversees the Bookmobile program. Two people retweeted it, and eleven people liked the tweet.

    Overall, this Snapchat story received over 100 views. It received one Snap back from a previous reporter in response to my ending question "What are you currently reading?"
  4. 2. Twitter post for Constitution Day
  5. For Constitution Day on Sept. 17, Matt and I brainstormed ideas for how celebrate via social media. The conversation solidified the differences between content for audiences on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.

    Facebook is better for audience conversations, so I posted a question to get the ball rolling about Constitutional Amendments. Unfortunately, our followers didn't want talk.

    For Snapchat, Matt had a great idea for a reporter to stand near the MU Thomas Jefferson statue and ask students to try and name all the rights in the first Amendment. Another member of the outreach team did this and got a few people to go on the Snapchat channel.

    Lastly, the Missourian's Twitter audience likes to read tweets, but they rarely click a link to read a Missourian article. Keeping this in mind, I accumulate facts about the Constitution, created a graphic to make them easy-to-read and then tweeted it out with the hashtag #ConstitutionDay. It received 12 retweets and 10 likes.
  6. 3. Storify product about the controversial legislation vote to override the Missouri governor' veto and allow resident to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
  7. This project was the first time I ever used Storify. Editors in the newsroom noted that the Missouri veto-session reporting was getting a lot of traction on our website. So one outreach team member monitored and gathered public social media responses about concealing weapons without a permit and the possibility of requiring additional ID to vote.

    I arrived at the newsroom in the afternoon, and with Matt's suggestion, I narrowed the social posts to discussing the concealed-carry debate and wrote commentary to go along with the selected posts.

    As Matt was reviewing my work and revising, he suggested that I write "a range of voices," to describe the content we accumulated. However, as soon as he said that, I realized we only had reactions from white-people; there was no racial diversity on an issue that stems from race issues. Matt and I then began searching for opinions from non-white people. We found one tweet; it didn't feel like enough, but we had tried many different keyword searches.

    This project felt like an accumlation of everything I had learned so far about paticipatory journalism: monitoring social conversations, searching for responses from readers and creating a product to show our audience that this legislative issue is important and that they need to pay attention.
  8. 4. Supermoon Photo Contest
  9. For my long-term project, I proposed that the Missourian begin to share readers’ photos in it social media platforms and publications. The Missourian already crowdsources Columbia residents’ tweets and essays through From Readers, and I thought it would be natural to begin collecting social photos as well. Readers could submit their photos to the Missourian, and we could publish them online, in print,and our social media channels. Today, everyone can take a picture with their cellphone or digital camera and share it with the world. Yes, professional photographers have perfected their craft, but why not celebrate the art form to create community and conversations about our town’s beauty.

    To try my idea out, I decided to crowd source photos with the supermoon that occurred Nov. 14. I created two promotions: one for Instagram and another for Facebook and Twitter. I chose a moon photo for the background, and then wrote that readers could submit their Supermoon photos to the Missourian by sharing them with the Hashtag #CoMoPhoto or by emailing them to I had hoped that we would publish the photos as a digital and print story as well as an album on Facebook and Instagram.
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  11. The promotions were shared via social media channels the day before the first night that photographers could take shots of the huge,white moon. The promotions were shared the next day as well to get more photos.

    Unfortunately, only one person shared a photo with the hashtag #CoMoPhoto and one more reader shared their photo via email. I had hoped that at least five people would have submitted. To get more photos, I used Banjo to find others’ who had taken photos of the supermoon. I eventually contacted five people. In the end, I collected a range of photos taken by a variety of people, amateur, hobbyist and professional alike. One photo was published in the print edition of the Missourian.

    Getting permission from the photographers to use their photos was a long process. First, I commented on their photo of the supermoon, writing, ”Great shot of the supermoon. My name is Jen Para, and I work for the Missourian. We'd like to feature your photo in the Missourian. We are compiling the best photos from the community in an online gallery rather than a story. Can you tell us a little bit about how you took it and where?”

    Nearly all the people responded, and all were excited for the project. Upon Matt’s suggestion, I asked the photographers to share a short anecdote with the photo, such as why they were taking a photo or what were the circumstances around the photo.

    After the digital story with all the photos was published, I shared the link with all the contributors and encouraged them to keep their eyes peeled for another CoMoPhoto opportunity.

  12. The article received 520 page views in three days and 552 views in one week. Almost 60% of the traffic came from the Missourian itself, which, given that the photos weren’t shared on Facebook, it makes sense.

    The Facebook Promotional Post reached 5,252 people.
    The Twitter Promotional post received 3,328 impressions with 63 total engagements.
    The Tweet sharing the photos received 2,301 impressions with 26 total engagements

    From this project, I learned that it takes a lot of effort to get our readers to actually submit photos. Of the 8,500 people who may of saw our promotions, only two people submitted a picture.

    Additionally, I had no idea how much work goes into a crowd-sourcing project. You can’t just receive photos and publish them. It’s a process of fact-checking, approving and editing. We cannot just publish any photo — there has to be a reason whether that be an interesting story, a new angle or a different image.
  13. 5. Election Day Snapchat
  14. I produced a snapchat story on the morning on Election day to talk to first-time voters. This was primarily a crowd-source project rather than an informative story as I had done with CoMo You Know packages.

    Overall, this video went very well despite the rain. Many first-time voters were excited to be on the Missourian Snapchat Channel, unlike older adults in previous snapchat stories I've made. I made sure to get a variety of people based on race, gender, and political affiliation. I also triple checked all spelling before I posted because I had made that mistake too many times before.

    I also experimented a bit by adding personality to the video, such as adding a snap of me complaining of the rain--the electioneers wouldn't let me be inside.

    My original plan was to go to two different polling locations on campus. My first stop was Memorial Union, and I stayed there for about 30 mins. However, when I left for the second location at the Alumni Building, no one would talk to me. Some students were unfriendly, but the adults--not first time voters unfortunately--were very appreciative of what I was trying to do. After 10 minutes of no luck, I went back to Memorial Union to finish out the Snapstory.

    After doing several of Snapchat stories, I've learned that you have to be hyper-aware of the content you're putting on. Not only must it be visually pleasing, but it must also have text that represents the photo/video that isn't too distracting. Also, you have to prioritize and go slow even though news is flying at you from all angles.
  15. Election Day Snapchat
  16. 6. Voters Guide Social Promotion + Analytics of Voters Guide.
  17. Starting in October and finishing the days before the election, I crafted social promotions for Facebook and Twitter to encourage our audience to read our specially prepared Voters Guide.

    This meant that every other day, a post on Facebook and Twitter was scheduled highlighting a specific office and its candidates. There were 8 races and 5 Amendments. I created various gifs on with photos of the candidates, maps of the districts, and/or quotes from the candidates about their stances on certain issues. Below are some examples of the social posts I made.

    As I was looking to find examples for this Storify, it appears that the gifs did not work on Facebook--they were stuck on the first slide of the gif.

    Some feedback I received: I needed to tag candidates in the tweets and not use so many colors on the amendment posts. Overall, I learned that I need to be more detail oriented.
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  19. Additionally, by chance, I happened to be schedule to do weekly analytics the weekend after the election. As I looked at the numbers, it appeared that Parsley did not count mobile views, which was a good thing to catch.

    I informed the newsroom of how the Voters Guide performed:

    *Most readers came to the Voters Guide via search engine. Therefore, we need to optimize search engine search terms with topics like this.

    *About half of the readers didn't click through to the Voters Guide. Therefore, we need to make the button on the Missourian article larger for the folks who didn't actually read through the article to get to the Voters Guide.

    *Social referrals, at 16%, didn't do that great despite our promotional efforts that went on for weeks. Therefore, we need to focus more on the day before the election and make the posts more engaging.