From PoynterOnline's Jim Romenesko comes a story about Freehold InJersey, a blog run by the Asbury Park Press and Gannett, launching a public newsroom in a coffee house in Freehold, NJ. According to the press release announcing the newsroom, "At a computer workstation surrounded by diners and patrons, the staff of Freehold InJersey will conduct interviews, work on stories, and produce multimedia content for this groundbreaking website. Passers-by can stop to ask the latest news, share a tip, or learn how to post their own stories to the open-source news site. Patrons can step into the newsroom and become reporters of their own community, using the provided desktop computer to post their own scoops."
It's a great idea for increasing community engagement and participation, but why stop with text? Put a camcorder or two, a reporter and a live streaming system into a coffee shop, and you've got an instant studio for interviews. It's been done before, from KRON in San Francisco doing morning interviews in coffee shops to Fox Business doing interviews in Wall Street bars at the end of the business day. The cost would be much lower than building out a studio and much faster to set up. News networks and local television stations spend millions of dollars building on-street studios; the "coffee shop studio" would get the same level of community exposure and engagement.
Speed is an important benefit, not just cost. Consider the following scenario: The local school district announces that it's going to close a neighborhood school. The typical approach for television stations is to send a reporter out to local rallies or to get "man on the street" interviews. With a coffee house studio, they could invite members of the community and the school district to come in and talk about the issues. The likely result would be a more informed, more in-depth discussion of the issues. When the issue is resolved, they could move on to another coffee house in another neighborhood. It's a great idea for blogs, newspapers and television stations.