Using Google Voice for journalism

Our parent company, Journal Register Co., has been offering training on how to use
Google Voice as an audience engagement tool to gather audio and put together a sound slide show, and I was on yesterday’s webinar. Google Voice is something I had experimented with and wrote about a year ago on this blog, but it really didn’t take off for us at Heritage.com.

One of my fellow ideaLab members, Karen Workman, the Community Engagement editor at The Oakland Press, however, took it to another level with her 9/11 project and hash been using it successfully to gather opinions from her audience in Oakland County, who call her Google Voice number to leave their thoughts, which she then edits in the free software Audacity and streams with photos. This works best with controversial or emotional topics that people feel compelled to speak out on.

After the training, reporters and editors were asked to pick a topic and create a sound slide show. I chose to ask the question: The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is still negotiating with the Humane Society of Huron Valley over the animal shelter’s contract, which expires Dec. 31 and amounts to half a million dollars. The county wants to cut the budget in half to $250,000. Humane Society officials say they wouldn’t be able to afford to perform the same level of service. Do you think the county should rethink its budget or can the Humane Society get by with less? Please leave your full name, city of residence and comment.” I’ve asked this question on my Google Voice voicemail, and I shared the phone number on my personal Facebook account, each of the eight publications I am involved with, as well as the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s Facebook page. I’ve also asked the Humane Society to let supporters know about the opportunity to share their thoughts, and asked the organization to supply photos of staff, the building and homeless animals.
It hasn’t been 24 hours yet, but so far no one has called, so I may have to rethink my topic and find something people are more passionate about. Let me know if you have any ideas or if you’re interested in doing a project like this on your own that we could incorporate on our website.

UPDATE 12/21: I’ve finished my project. Let me know your thoughts.

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One Comment on “Using Google Voice for journalism”


  1. Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for being there yesterday!

    Some suggestions on the crowdsourcing — if you can, use a print promotion too. That may help.

    A rewording of the question may be in order if no one responds. Perhaps, “Humane Society officials say a projected 50 percent cut to their funding could lead to countless animals suffering (or left homeless, etc. — so long as its true, of course!). What do you think should be done?” A specific appeal to how this affects people, or in this case, animals, may help you corner that emotional aspect of this story. If you haven’t already, it’s probably a good idea to ask officials exactly what they think the direct impact of these cuts to animal welfare will be.

    And if no one responds, like you said, move on. Sometimes figuring out what the audience wants to be engaged on is a trial and error process. We’ve had a couple duds here too.

    Looking forward to seeing your project and thanks for always being an inspiration!


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