As a journalist, I think of myself as a fairly savvy news consumer, but there are times when I find myself in need of information that is not just a click away.
Perhaps I need a quick refresher on what’s happened with the issue of texting and driving in Missouri or I want to find out how or when the Heart of America marathon began. That information isn't accessed with a quick keyword search on Google and it isn't necessarily something you'd find at the library reference desk.
The CoMo You Know could be just the answer to this dilemma. This online encyclopedia is a new project of ColumbiaMissourian.com that was conceived by former Missourian staffers to be a reference tool for the community. My intent is to have the encyclopedia published and accessible to the public by mid-November.
The basic idea is that a CoMo You Know entry would fill in the gap between stories and offer some context between episodic news coverage. When proposing the project, students said it “will provide a deeper picture of what a story means to the reader and the community."
Missourian editors think the CoMo You Know will be an asset to the community. New residents might use it to find out about the places and parks they visit, or people considering a move to our town might want to use the CoMo You Know as a research tool to discover more about a neighborhood where they're looking to buy a home. But, the CoMo You Know isn't designed just for newcomers or future journalism students who need information about this community.
The CoMo You Know also is relevant for people vested in our community — those of you who know the history of the places most frequented, the background on festivals, the biographies of the people who shaped our town or the history of those issues that helped form our community values.
Entries could offer historical context, biographies, statistics and maps that might link to stories by Missourian reporters. And, I wouldn't rule out videos or audio recording either. Truly, there's no end to the possibilities for this project, which is one of the reasons I like it so much.
Another reason I like the CoMo You Know is that it can make us better-informed residents of Columbia and Boone County. It aims to educate its readers by offering rich histories, stories or photographs they won't find anywhere else. By putting all that information in one place, this encyclopedia interacts with the news of the day and informs us at the same time.
While the concept of a CoMo You Know entry is modeled after Wikipedia, there are some distinct differences. Each CoMo You Know entry will be edited by a staff member so that information is verified. We certainly don't want to offer an encyclopedia entry that isn't accurate.
About 150 entries exist now and more are likely to come by early December. The Missourian editors know that the list isn't complete though, and hope you'll help make the CoMo You Know a true reflection of this community.
I've lived in Columbia for five years and in Missouri nearly all my life, but I'm certainly no expert on the places I've lived. I only know about a fraction of this place I call home, and I'm ready to learn more. Because the editors know that there are entry topics missing from our initial list, I'm seeking your help. Take a look at the attached list and make a suggestion for entries to include in the CoMo You Know.
Send your entry submissions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 882-6870. I'd love the chance to tell you more about this project and its value to the community.
Laura Johnston is an interactive news editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com and an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.