For the last couple of months we have been talking with New York University journalism professor (and HuffPost blogger) Jay Rosen about teaming up with his experimental site, NewAssignment.net, to add a new dimension to the coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign.
We are now ready to invite your participation. We are recruiting large groups of citizen journalists from around the country to cover the major presidential candidates. Each of these volunteer reporter/bloggers will contribute to a candidate-specific group blog -- offering written updates, campaign tidbits, on-the-scene observations, photos, or original video.
We'll have a Clinton blog, an Obama blog, an Edwards blog, a McCain blog, a Giuliani blog, a Romney blog, a Biden blog, a Richardson blog, a Dodd blog, a Kucinich blog, a Brownback blog, a Huckabee blog. Each offering a wide variety of voices and perspectives on the campaign they are following. These group blogs will also be a compendium of useful information about each candidate, including their latest speeches, upcoming appearances, new videos and ads, recent news articles and more.
This citizen journalism will be in addition to the coverage provided by HuffPost's staff reporters, and the commentary provided by our regular bloggers, as well as our aggregation of news coverage from mainstream and online media.
It's The Wisdom of Crowds Hits the Campaign Trail.
We've seen what happens when the reportorial elite begins feeding off the same informational teat, and conventional wisdom becomes the order of the day (Exhibit A is, and will always be, the press' shameful lack of questioning during the run-up to the war in Iraq). We've also seen what happens when members of an online community band together to pursue a story, as Josh Marshall's did recently with the U.S. Attorneys scandal.
Our volunteer reporters will aim to provide an authentic counter-narrative to the lockstep consensus we often get from the mainstream media, and will take inspiration from bottom up efforts such as TPM Muckraker.
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki argued that, given the right circumstances, large groups of people are smarter than an elite few. According to Surowiecki, three of the key elements that make a crowd (ie any group of people focused on a collective endeavor) smart are: independence, decentralization, and diversity.
Our citizen journalists will be independent -- focused on their piece of the puzzle, and not what everyone around them thinks. They will be decentralized -- spread across the country, with no one on high giving them their marching orders. And they will be as diverse as possible -- a mix of campaign insiders devoted to their candidates, neutral outsiders, passionate partisans and steely-eyed observers. The mosaic of their perspectives will add a varied portrait to the traditional coverage of the candidates and their campaigns.
In addition, our strength-in-numbers approach will make it possible for our contributors to stake out specialized beats, taking advantage of their specific expertise and/or connections. For instance, we might have a former speechwriter reviewing all of Barack Obama's speeches, an award-winning TV commercial director analyzing Hillary Clinton's ads, a netroots activist reporting on John Edwards' online outreach efforts, or an experienced political fundraiser following John McCain's campaign donors.
The end result will be more sources of information, more eyes and ears focused on a wider variety of subjects, more outside-the-mainstream voices given a platform. All in all, a fresh and innovative way of covering the road to the White House.
So if you'd like to be involved in this exciting new project, send us your name, contact info, and which campaign you want to follow through the form below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.