Use Forms To Find Great Stories

Surveys and forms can be valuable tools in the journalistic toolbox. If you use form tools well, they can help you engage with your audience to find new leads, information, skills, ideas. If you use them thoughtlessly, they can be a waste of your energy and frustrating experience for everyone, including the people you want to respond to them. Earlier in our work, we experimented with a product called Ask, a form-based tool. While Ask isn’t in active development anymore, we learned a lot in our research about how to use forms effectively.

Impact Tracker

Impact Tracker is an open-source tool from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). It’s an interactive database that helps manage records of real-world change associated with a story, project or event. The entered dataset is filterable and searchable to track impact by topic or time period. Here’s a handy guide in how to use the tool, a write-up from, and download the open-source version.

NLGJA Journalists Toolbox

The NLGJA Journalists Toolbox is designed primarily to assist journalists who don’t normally cover the LGBTQ community. The advice here is drawn from outside media experts and our own members who are professional journalists for both mainstream media and the LGBTQ press. We also offer story ideas and new ways of thinking for reporters who are experienced in covering LGBTQ life.


Hearken is a consulting and technology company that “help organizations create relevant services and build resilient networks through community engagement.” Hearken began as a public Q&A technology platform and now focuses on processes of change that are enabled by their tech offerings.


GroundSource is a platform that newsrooms and nonprofits use to engage audiences via text and Facebook Messenger. GroundSource has been used to solicit input/feedback from community members, to build customized data services for low-income communities, and to share content and push out live updates. Related references here and here.

Power and Empowerment

We attempt to demystify and reveal the many faces of power. We look at power as an individual, collective, and political force that can either undermine or empower citizens and their organizations. It is a force that alternatively can facilitate, hasten, or halt the process of change promoted through advocacy. For this discussion, we draw on practical experience and theory, particularly related to poverty and women’s rights where power has been analyzed from the vantage point of subordination and discrimination. We also offer a variety of tools and frameworks for mapping and analyzing power and interests.