Mathew Ingram, the communities editor at the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, writing at the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Web site, recounts how he’s been experimenting with new ways of interacting with their readers online. Several weeks ago, he launched their Public Policy Wiki, a social-media mashup to encourage opinions from their readers about Canadian public policy issues. It’s a combination of a traditional, publicly-editable wiki and a public discussion forum, with comments and voting features.
Using TikiWiki software, Mathew was able to pull it together rather quickly. The first issue the wiki approached was the pending Canadian economy and federal budget. They posted several opinions of economists and other policy advisors, as well as “briefing notes.” Then they asked their registered users to comment, edit and vote on them using the wiki tools. In two weeks they attracted over 100,000 page views, with 800 individuals signing up to vote, comment and edit. They then sent the Canadian finance minister the two most popular notes. Mathew adds that the vast majority of comments and participation has been serious and well thought out. Who says the public doesn’t care about policy?
The next issue they’re going to tackle is Canada’s participation and role in Afghanistan.
Congrats to the Globe and Mail on this project. In this time of journalistic upheaval, it’s this type of experimentation and innovation that will likely pay huge dividends.