A post published last week on the Newspaper Next blog is going straight to the list of essential online journalism blog posts.

Steve Buttry looks at how presenting local information databases online can help newspapers “become the source for answers”. There are loads of great examples of how US newspapers presenting public records in an easily-accessible form for their readers.

Making existing databases available and useful to readers is just one side of the data coin, though. What about the opposite possibility: enlisting readers’ help to generate the data that will form the basis of new reporting?

Jeff Jarvis has a suggestion for a networked journalism project about local infrastructure. Jarvis suggests how things like the Bakersfield Californian’s pothole map or MySociety’s FixmyStreet to the next level.

Once readers have identified potential trouble spots, Jarvis says, “do what you do best: add journalism.”

Someone has already acted on the suggestion.

Incidentally, these issues are good example of some of the other items of the essential reading list. The Newspaper Next post is a collection of data projects that turn the web into the canvas for computer-assisted reporting, as Derek Willis put it. They are also good examples of Ryan Sholin’s online journalism skills trinity — they are examples at the intersection of “data” and “interactivity”. Now if only we could find some way to add the third component, “multimedia”. Angela Grant has some contributions for that section of the reading list.