The Wisdom of Crowds: Political Reporting Style


Arianna Huffington is entering the world of citizen journalism with her announcement of a new project: The Wisdom of Crowds Hits the Campaign Trail. It's got the makings of a great effort: she's recruiting citizen journalists from around the country to cover the major presidential candidates and asking each of them to contribute to a candidate-specific group blog — offering written updates, campaign tidbits, on-the-scene observations, photos, or original video. The goal is to provide more sources of information, and more outside-the-mainstream voices on the upcoming presidential campaign. She's got the readership to make it happen.

She's doing this a joint project with Jay Rosen's project – NewAssignment.Net, one of our grantees. Jay recently launched his first major distributed reporting assignment in conjunction with Wired.

Some details of this project from Jay include:

Sometime this spring, then, we'll roll out twelve new pages at NewAssignment.Net with a mix of news, information, original reporting and views not-found-elsewhere. Behind each candidate page will be a contributors' network built by hand, made up of people who would like to participate in the 2008 election by claiming a campaign beat and making their own news and commentary, in collaboration with others doing the same thing (but coming from a different place.) All overseen by an editor paid to make the whole thing run, and evaluated by how good the twelves [sic]pages are. …

So there's a structure, and for the contributors substantial freedom within that structure. Some order, some chaos. There are editors, but contributors post what they want at their own mini-blogs. We don't pay you for your time if you choose to become one of our contributors. Neither do we own your work. A Creative Commons license will apply to it. There will be no ads at the NewAssignment.Net site, which is non-profit, an experiment with the power-of-many in online journalism. The Huffington Post, which does have ads, will have the right to pull content from our 12 candidate pages.

I can't help but wonder how we might apply this concept to some key Congressional campaigns in 2008.