I assume that the idea of ‘letters to the editor’ was once a representative and effective means for news organizations to receive feedback from their community.
I’m not certain it remains so. For one, those can of course only be sent in for what has already been announced. I also get the sense not many reporters really listened or could gauge the preponderance of feedback.
The rise of quantitative surveying helps, though of course surveys are also not necessarily representative. We at Technically Media do our fair bit of surveying, after events and annually too. We also host regular curated groups of readers and (importantly) those we aspire to be readers of ours.
We’ve done these for years, and using them as a means for intensive qualitative feedbacks, was a piece of advice I gave a group of publishers las month. Journalist Jim Iovini leads an interesting program at West Virginia University called the NewStart Program, which supports new and aspiring community newspaper publishers.
He had me join a class, and below he shared a clip of something I said, including a challenge I hope all newsrooms ask themselves regularly: “What problem are we solving for the community we serve?”
Don’t fall in love with an idea until you ensure you’re solving a problem. Talk to your readers.