NavBharat Times (NBT), a leading Hindu daily that is part of the Times Group, created Hello! NBT Reporter — a platform through which people can send newsworthy items related to civic issues using a dedicated WhatsApp number. After the news story is verified, it is published in a citizen reporter column.

NavBharat Times' Hello! NBT Reporter asks for timely news from citizen journalists who submit hundreds of stories daily.
NavBharat Times' Hello! NBT Reporter asks for timely news from citizen journalists who submit hundreds of stories daily.

The goal behind the initiative was to increase two-way communication between readers and our brand. Today’s consumers are not limited to merely receiving information from brands. Instead, they actively engage in dialogue, discussions, and debates on popular social media platforms.

These participative consumers create a network of micro-reports on social sites, such as YouTube and Facebook; publish blogs; and comment on news sites.

Organisations these days are reaching out to these active, engaged consumers. Their opinions are valued and sought by the mainstream press. On occasion, their first-hand reports and opinion pieces make it to print. Ordinary people are increasingly reporting what they witness: scams, accidents, corruption, civic apathy, and philanthropy. Clearly, citizen journalism is on the rise.

Hello! NBT Reporter was launched in four cities: Mumbai, Lucknow, Ghaziabad, and Faridabad. The initiative was focused on the themes of empowerment and modernisation of society. Under the initiative, NBT has invited its readers to share any incident or grievance via a dedicated WhatsApp number. 

The news items we receive are shortlisted for news worthiness, verified by our reporters, and, depending upon the importance of the matter, carried in the newspaper. Readers whose news items get published are rewarded on a monthly basis with a certificate and interaction with the city editor.

Citizen reporters use a dedicated WhatsApp number to report breaking news of civic interest in their communities.
Citizen reporters use a dedicated WhatsApp number to report breaking news of civic interest in their communities.

The campaign is promoted through both offline and online media and involves editorial content and social media (Facebook and Twitter). By inviting our readers to report any incident that happens, the lead time between when an event occurs and the reporting of the event has decreased.

This timely reporting is especially crucial today  given the multiple sources of news and short amount of time it takes for stories to go viral. This is particularly true for social media and television, since both media break news as it happens.

Hello! NBT Reporter receives from 350 to 400 news items daily from our citizen reporters. Out of those submissions, five or six stories get published across editions. To date, we have published approximately 1,200 reader-submitted news items.