Crowdsourcing Border Patrol and Journalism in Texas


The Texas Tribune takes crowdsourcing to a new level with its “bordering on Insecurity” project. Aimed at uncovering the truth about border security, immigration, crime statistics and other issues related to the Texas / Mexico border (as seen above at the entrance to Santa Elena Canyon), the Tribune is actively enlisting citizen investigative reporters. These contributors take the stories deeper and broader than is possible from the outside. It’s crowdsourced journalism, but better.

This newish reporting strategy gets straight to the heart of reader engagement. It involves people who live, work and travel around and through the border areas. But the results aren’t just sound bites and raw video feeds. The Tribune wants real reporting, but from the people instead of from the newsroom.

Bordering on Insecurity

The Bordering on Insecurity project was developed by the Texas Tribune to inform and engage its readers with the volatile subject of border security and immigration. Those are arguably hotter topics in this election year than any others.

To-date, the newspaper has reported on sanctuary cities and a United States citizen who was mistaken for a foreign felon, and “crunched the numbers of undocumented immigrants in Texas prisons,” says the Tribune.

The reporting doesn’t stop there. This series gives immigrants a voice in American media that they often lack. And it’s all because the publication is striving to find news stories from the inside out instead of the other way around.

The Importance of Crowdsourcing

This is an era of blatant media distrust. One glimpse at a politician’s Facebook or Twitter account shows post after post of accusations. The media is biased, they say, and it’s owned by corporations with a vested interest in slanting a story. One person in a crowd might also be biased. But collectively, there’s a deeper truth.

It’s also an era of “watchdog journalism,” says Reuters Institute. Crowdsourcing levels the playing field to a degree. Suddenly, the reporters aren’t glossy professional photos or polished images on TV. They’re accounts from ordinary people who are just like everyone else.

There’s an inherent issue with the lack of professional reporting. But crowdsourced journalism is no less fact-checked than any other, or at least it shouldn’t be. With the combination of stories from numerous sources and the verification of professional journalists, this could be the best of all worlds. Gritty real stories from the varied “crowd,” that are fastidiously fact checked for accuracy and that people can believe and genuinely relate to.

Bordering on Insecurity covers stories that matter to people in the Texas Tribune readership. It’s part of the fabric of their lives. It contains exposés on border patrol authorities who turn bad and shares stories about the struggles of immigrant families and those who dream of one day becoming United States citizens.

This crowdsourced journalism is real, raw and comes directly from legal and undocumented immigrants, law enforcement and others who live it. And instead of telling citizen reporters what to write, the Tribune asks them what they’d like to tell. The potential for crowdsourcing and reader engagement just leaped tenfold.

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