dallas morning news asks readers to sift lost jfk assassination docs

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins recently made public documents and relics relating to the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

The existence of the materials, stored in a 6ft x 6ft safe, had been kept secret until now.

The Dallas Morning News has put the documents online and is asking readers to help sift through the content which they say includes "transcripts, personal and official letters,
newspaper clippings, lists of jurors, police reports, rap sheets,
autopsy reports, trial notes, police notebooks, photographs and much

The problem, according to the paper, is that the documents are, "…neither cataloged nor indexed, and they are in no apparent order. Given the volume, we haven’t been able to review most of the files.
That’s why were calling on you. Here’s your chance to review
never-seen-before materials related to the JFK assassination." 

Asking readers to help sift through the massive amount of material released is, of course, a great way to use the audience to help find interesting details that will generate stories. At the moment, it looks like the only way users can do this is to send messages to the paper or post on a discussion board – neither of which really harnesses the full potential of the network.

I think the paper is missing a trick by not creating an editorial framework around how people can help with the project. For example, the paper could ask users to use a social bookmarking tool, such as del.icio.us, to bookmark, tag and share. This way they’d be able to more quickly index the documents, making it easier for those with specialist skills or knowledge to get to the documents where their skills can be put to best use.

Simply putting the materials online, and asking audiences to help sift through them, is a good first step but so much more could be gained by applying the newspaper’s editorial skills to creating a framework for participation.