Huffington, Rosen launch campaign-focused citizen journalism Web site

NEW YORK: A new online journalism site led by Arianna Huffington and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen is aiming to bring the wisdom of crowds to the insider-driven world of campaign journalism.

NEW YORK: A new online journalism site led by Arianna Huffington and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen is aiming to bring the wisdom of crowds to the insider-driven world of campaign journalism.

Offthebus.net, a site set to launch in July, will be a collaboration of what organizers hope will be thousands of citizens across America writing about all aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Huffington told PRWeek that her popular Web site, the Huffington Post, will be involved in shaping and promoting the project, and will host some its work to provide it with a wider audience. She said that she is seeking a mixed group of political insiders and outsiders to "provide an authentic counter-narrative" to the conventional wisdom, though it is not necessarily intended to provide completely objective, unbiased reporting.

"It's not meant to replace current campaign journalism so much as provide an alternative to the little closed universe reporters so often find themselves in when following a candidate," Huffington said, via e-mail. "The end result will be more sources of information, more eyes and ears focused on a wider variety of subjects."

Jay Rosen, whose "open platform journalism" site NewAssignment.net is collaborating in the project, said that the sheer number of writers that Offthebus.net hopes to put together will enable them to cover more widely disparate events and be better organized than most political bloggers.

"My overriding goal is simply to demonstrate that there are other ways of doing it," said Rosen, via e-mail.

The Web site's backers embrace "the wisdom of crowds" theory - that truth will emerge from a diversity of voices.

The site has hired Amanda Michel and Zack Exley, who both worked in online communications for the John Kerry presidential campaign, as its main staffers. Exley said the site has already signed up close to 1,000 correspondents, including some with professional journalism backgrounds.

"There is huge enthusiasm out there for honest reporting that is not locked into the master narrative of the horse race," Exley said, via e-mail. "Offthebus.net is like a glass of ice water in hell for these people."

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