Yesterday around 1 p.m., I posted a note here about a missing concrete pig that’s something of a landmark in northeast Cedar Rapids.
I ended up writing a short story about the pig and its new home for today’s paper. I don’t usually write stories, but this one was a good example of how The Gazette can (and does) combine social media and old-fashioned reporting to get interesting stories.
We got an e-mail Monday morning asking about where the pig had gone to, and after a little bit of discussion, I put two posts out on twitter, and wrote a short blog post asking if anyone had any ideas. Part of that was for fun, also — I thought we might get some funny stories about the pig. And I did get a few responses quickly from people who follow me on twitter, and within two hours, we got a comment on the blog post that confirmed what we were thinking — that the owner, who’d been renting out the house, had sold it and taken the pig.
There was a lot of traditional reporting, as well. I drove out to the house and knocked on the door, hoping someone would be home. The new owner was, and he was happy to talk with me. Once I had the name of the pig’s owner, I called him, as well, and he confirmed what we already knew, and gave us some more background.
Now this is a very, very simple story, but one that’s already gotten a lot of comments, so people seem to care. There are two lessons here for newspapers, though. The first is that new techniques don’t have to replace old ones, they just supplement them. The second is that even small stories can benefit from putting ideas out to the crowd and seeing what comes of it. It won’t work every time, but there’s no harm in trying.