Panamanian Newspapers Are Getting Wired

Feb 32011

The Panamanian newspapers have taken serious steps to enhance their online presence opening YouTube channels, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts and creating crowdsourcing tools to get photos, videos and information produced by their readers.

Two buses collide in Panama City. This is one of the main concerns among Panamanian citizens. (Photo: Jorge Luis Sierra)

The Panamanian newspapers have taken serious steps to enhance their online presence opening YouTube channels, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts and creating crowdsourcing tools to get photos, videos and information produced by their readers.

These are important developments in a country that have some of the oldest newspapers in Latin America and reveal a clear intention to face the new challenges and opportunities today's journalism is facing with digital tools, social media and citizen reporting. But apparently, the Panamanian colleagues might need to do a little bit more.

La Prensa was the first newspaper in the country to create, about 11 months ago, the crowdsourcing website Repórtalo. With this tool, citizens can take pictures or videos with their cameras or mobile devices. To post information in Repórtalo, citizens fill out an online form and upload the photos and YouTube videos. Most of the pictures and videos taken are usually images of trash and traffic violations in the streets.

It is interesting to see these reports because they are a good way to figure out what are the most important citizen concerns. But it will be even more interesting to see what La Prensa do with this information.

Until now, the citizen reports are not being followed up by the La Prensa reporters. It might be a terrific development if La Prensa reporters produce stories for the print or the Web based on Repórtalo information, in the same way we try to do with the citizen reports sent to Mi Panama Transparente. I have talked to my La Prensa partners about this and suggested some ideas

La Estrella recently created its own crowdsourcing tool Denúncialo. With this system, citizens send reports via email and attach pictures or videos. No reports have been sent so far, but I think the newspaper is going to receive reports as soon the citizens realize there is a new tool in the website. I also hope La Estrella begins to produce stories based on their own citizen reports.

Both experiences are important. They represent a new attempt to being in contact with readers, using online platforms and digital tools. However, I guess it would crucial to understand that these new tools are going to be successful only if we really interact with users. And the best interaction we can have with citizen reporters is to do research and publish stories based on the information they send.