It’s time to lean forward.

It’s time to stop leaning back and, instead, lean forward.

That’s advice from Rosental Alves of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and a UT Austin professor, who spoke at the IRE Watchdog Workshop in February.

Think about it: Journalists, by nature, have been reactive. We are told something is happening, and we report about it. That might be an event, a change in a program, a major clash in our coverage area. But it’s all reactive. We’ve leaned back and waited for news to happen, no matter how intense our beat reporting.

With the public’s access to the same information we have, it’s the journalist’s job now to provide context and organization to the information. It’s no longer our job to decide what is news for our readers. It’s our job, instead, to let them decide but give them the backup to help them sift through and make sense of the noise.

Put simply, it’s time to lean forward. That means knowing your audience, its habits, interests and needs, and participating fully in the conversation. It’s a big change in thinking, and one our professional peers have been transitioning to. The Texas Tribune is a wonderful example of “leaning forward.” Check out how they crowd-sourced the election yesterday: http://www.texastribune.org/stories/2010/mar/02/primary-day-2010-liveblog/

So, I put the question to you. How can The Shorthorn lean forward? It’s not about us … but it is our move. Comment below.

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