Can Facebook or Twitter help us do better stories and widen our sources and inputs?
I guess so.
We are game to move into the space that has been inhabited by millions. And will do, soon.
But minus the new tech tools, we have been trying to explore ways in which we can get people of the neighbourhood, readers and longtime associates to contribute to news stories and features.
So when we decided to plan a light feature on how people who have fruit trees in their backyard harvest the fruits in a day and time when the traditional men who knocked off the coconuts in minutes with a skill that is ancient, we managed to make a few new contacts.
In Adyar, against increasing complaints of encroachments of public spaces like streets, pavements and playgrounds, our newspaper has not only reported on this issue but invited readers to be on-the-spot content providers.
A few people quickly dashed off short notes on such violations.
But we would like more. For, a weekly short list of long standing violations may push the violators to draw back or nudge our civic officers to get a tad severe against them.
Citizen-based journalism is not easy when it comes to reporting serious, sensitive issues.
A few months ago a civic activist from Besant Nagar had this story to share.
On her morning walks, she made mental notes of civic issues that dotted her neighbourhood. Topping them was the encroachments made by a big-time trader of construction materials - sand, bricks, blue metal and cement.
His men had taken over three spaces around his store. So when she asked the local police to take action, a police-woman officer landed at the complainant's door the next day, Behind her was the trader.
The woman went numb for a minute. She had not expected the police to share the complainant's address with the man who was accused of violating public space.
That night, the obvious happened. A couple of stones were flung at the windshield of the woman's car and the damage done.
A warning had been issued by the violator. This happened last year.
The trader continues to violate key spaces in Besant Nagar. And Chennai Corporation and Sastri Nagar police officials look the other way. Or they may have fined him a few hundreds every other new moon.
How can simple technologies address such issues?