Talking Points Memo: Utilizing Readers in Independent Journalism

In a talk at Ithaca College in 2008, Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall described the growth of Talking Points Memo and the importance of independent media. The year he gave the talk, Marshall had won the Polk Award for his 2007 investigation of politically-motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys by the White House that led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Marshall was at the college for the 2008 Park Center for Independent Media Symposium.

Marshall described the importance of an active readership for independent media. When he asked his readers to help him fundraise for a trip to cover the New Hampshire primary, Marshall raised between $6,000 and $7,000 in less than 24 hours, which he said “was a very very big deal” due to the state of his finances at the time. Marshall said the blog evolved into a hybrid between traditional journalism and collaborative journalism featuring help from readers. Marshall described how he used readers to find what individual members of Congress were saying in town hall meetings. This allowed him “to follow the debate at the ground level in a way that traditional journalists weren’t able to do.”

Readers also played a major role in TPM’s investigation about the firings of U.S. attorneys across the country. Marshall had readers send in information about fired U.S. attorneys that was reported locally. Marshall said the “very deep level of skepticism we had about the people we were covering, and the neat advantages of our relationship with our readers” were essential in the uncovering of that story.

Today, eight years later, it is still clear Talking Points Memo has a strong relationship with its readers. Directly under the banner of “TPM” on the website, there is a link to an email address where readers can submit comments and news tips. Although the site has grown into an operation that employs more than a dozen editorial staff members, it is clear TPM remains a site with a close connection to its readers.


Talking Points Memo: Utilizing Readers in Independent Journalism

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