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Columbia Tomorrow creates a 'living story' on growth and development

Friday, May 8, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

If you were listening to Wednesday's U.S. Senate testimony on the future of journalism, you might have heard Google VP Marissa Mayer outline a new approach to news that has great promise for readers.

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A news article on the Web can become a "living story," Mayer said, updated day by day to reflect not only the latest developments, but also the history and context surrounding an issue. This would allow avid followers of a topic to quickly determine exactly what's changed since the last story was written, while those who are just tuning in could easily catch up.

It would also give those who care deeply about an issue an ideal forum for discussing it, one that doesn't get buried on the site over time like the comments on news stories. And it would allow journalists to do justice to the complexity of some of our most important issues every day, not just in the occasional series.

So over the past few months, a team of Missourian reporters and editors has been pioneering this approach to explore one of those issues: the complex subject of growth and development in Columbia.

Growth and development involves a brew of acronyms — TDDs, CIDs, TIF, PUD — and jargon that can put off even the most dedicated readers. Beneath all of that lies a story that has a profound effect on each of our lives. It affects what you see as you travel to and from work or school, the air you breathe, the water you drink. And as Columbia grapples with years of prolific growth, this story is becoming more and more important.

That's why we've created ColumbiaTomorrow.com.

We've created a collection of living stories that are accessible enough to introduce newcomers to these issues and deep enough to engage experts. At the site you'll also find interactive maps of the city's major developments and road plans, regular updates on the topic, and a discussion forum where you can start or join conversations about these issues.

If Google's vice president is right, this may be the direction news sites are going. For Columbians, that future is already here, at ColumbiaTomorrow.com.

Matt Thompson is a 2008-'09 Donald W. Reynolds fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. You can read more about the approach behind Columbia Tomorrow at his Web site, Newsless.org.

 


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