I’ve been writing about ReportingOn, my Knight News Challenge project, in fits and starts for 11 months now, but it’s time to backtrack for a moment and answer some simple questions about what I’m up to here.

Q: So, what’s ReportingOn?

A: ReportingOn.com will be a simple way for journalists to update their peers on the stories they’re working on right now. Tag your 140-character-or-less updates with the beat you’re on, and find peers reporting on similar beats to make connections, introduce yourself to potential mentors, or discover an unsung hero.

Q: When you say “journalists,” who are you talking about?

A: Anyone who publishes news, information, or commentary at a relatively stable spot in print and/or online. That umbrella should cover reporters at the Washington Post, photojournalism students with a blog and a school paper, and independent bloggers who focus on a certain topic. Ideally, the journalists in question have a definable beat, whether it’s geographical or topical, and they’re doing original reporting of some sort.

Q: So it’s a social network? I already belong to a few of those…

A: You can call it that if you want. If it’s a social network, it’s one based on beats, which doesn’t exist just yet. There are plenty of blogs, social networks, and discussion boards based on craft, and there’s Wired Journalists for general professional networking, but no public place for journalists to flag themselves as, say, an education reporter who frequently writes about standardized testing, and find other reporters working the same beat.

Q: So what am I supposed to say about the story I’m working on?

A: As much or little as you want. Maybe you just want to mention something general about your story and tag your update with your beat to let your peers know what you’re up to. Or maybe you have a question that needs an answer, or you’re bored with all the “usual suspects” sources and you’re looking for an introduction to an expert with a different point of view. You’ll probably get exactly as much information out of ReportingOn as you put into it.

Q: What if my competition picks up on what I’m working on and beats me to the story?

A: Really? You’re still worried about the paper across town? OK, no problem, just don’t included much specific information in your updates. But really, ReportingOn is probably going to work much better if you’re writing an investigative/enterprise story or a feature. I’m not sure how well it’s going to work for breaking news, unless you’re just looking for a source or some help making sense out of freshly released data.

Q: OK, where do I start?

A: So glad you asked. ReportingOn is currently in development, but you’re more than welcome to follow ReportingOn on Twitter and send it updates. Also, there’s a spot at www.reportingon.com to enter your e-mail address. I’m collecting those, and when there’s news about the site, I’ll send it out to the list.