When I last wrote here to report on ReportingOn progress, I talked about the work I was doing with my development and design team to define the terms of the RO pitch.

A dozen or so whiteboards later, the Lion Burger team is actively putting together mockups and the beginnings of the database for what we’re calling “Phase 2” of the project.

And it’s a huge rethinking of what a “back channel for your beat” looks like. While it’s been easy to tag the initial version of ReportingOn as simply “Twitter for journalists,” journalists already have a Twitter. It’s called Twitter. And the goal was never to create a database of journalists working a certain beat for the benefit of public relations practitioners and social media managers, although that unintended use certainly has a few influential folks interested.

No, the goal was always to give journalists — whether they’re a neighborhood blogger or the Baghdad bureau chief at the Washington Post — a place to ask questions about what they’re reporting on.

The shift that we’re making is a move from asking “What are you reporting on?” to asking “What do you need to know about what you’re reporting on?

That’s where influences like Stack Overflow come into play. What’s the best way to organize and surface questions from journalists about a given topic? That’s a question ReportingOn (Phase 2) hopes to answer.

In my post about Michele Ellson and The Island of Alameda I heard an important question, or at least a great example of the problem we’re hoping to help solve.

Michele was answering my question about advice for other journalists with thoughts about covering their own neighborhood online, when she wrote this:

“I’ve found covering local news to be a lot more challenging than I expected, and in some respects a little more challenging than covering an issue beat. For one, you have to be able to speak intelligently on everything from education policy to municipal finance to, in my case, environmental cleanup issues.” [emph. mine]

Although it’s a different path — former beat reporter turns general assignment blogger — than we might expect, Michele eloquently voices a need: She’s working a new beat, and she has questions about issues that are new to her.

But those issues might not be new to you. Think you can answer her questions?

I’ll be looking for newsrooms and individuals to help test Phase 2 of ReportingOn soon. If you’re interested, let me know.