Huffington, Rosen have lots to say on campaign journalism

For my news story this week on the new campaign journalism site, I got lengthy responses to my questions from both of...

For my news story this week on the new campaign journalism site, I got lengthy responses to my questions from both of the site's co-publishers, blog maven Arianna Huffington and NYU journalism professor and PressThink blogger Jay Rosen (both via e-mail. Bloggers love e-mails!). Some quotes that didn't make the print story:

Arianna Huffington, on why will be different from current political blogs:
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. He said that 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.

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.

Much, much more after the jump.

Huffington on what she hopes the new site will accomplish:


We’re not saying that this is a project that will change the face of campaign journalism as we know it. We’re saying that by covering the campaign from a wide range of different angles and perspective, we have the chance to add a new dimension to campaign journalism. A much needed new dimension. Our goal is to provide an authentic counter-narrative to the consensus reporting we so often get from the mainstream media.

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 living in when following a candidate. Campaign after campaign, we’ve seen what happens when reporters hop on board the same bus -- and the Conventional Wisdom gets passed around like a joint at a Grateful Dead concert. We look forward to seeing how citizen journalism can change the dynamics of the game.

Rosen (winner of my personal award for "Most complete answer provider to any question") on what sets the new site apart:

One difference: political writing when you are a lone blogger is different from political writing when you are part of a blogging network or community of writers all working under the same "sign" or brand-- OffTheBus. I hope we can give our bloggers better and better tools for doing better a better and better job, so that when you log in to OffTheBus back end you should see before you an array of news feeds, backstage forums, editors suggestions and tips coming from the network, and other juicy things to blog about. That's a big difference from the proverbial blank sheet of paper and "what should I write about today...?"

The other answer is that OffTheBus is not just a bunch of bloggers; it has a second side. It will also do "distributed" reporting projects that require the participation of lots of people under the "many hands make light work" principle. Let's suppose we wanted to comb through disclosure forms and can't pay three reporters to spend a week doing it. By mobilizing hundreds of OffTheBus members who've signed up with us to get alerts about just this sort of thing, we can pull off large reporting projects that might be impossible for individual reporters.

Rosen on what he hopes to accomplish:

I stay away from predictions of change or projections about having dramatic effects. I think you have to succeed first, and there's no way of knowing if we will succeed. So I am not thinking about transforming this or that, but rather providing a compelling and useful alternative to "on the bus" or horse race coverage.

What I hope to accomplish is, first of all, to create an exciting absorbing and different page of campaign news at OffTheBus.Net. If you look at it and it doesn't look your grandfather's political news, then we are succeeding.

So my overriding goal is simply to demonstrate that there are other ways of doing it. That election season doesn't have to mean news coverage that is so ritualized, formulaic and boring. That lots of people, far outside the usual circles, have quality contributions to make to the discussion season that should accompany the election. That "distributed" methods for collecting information can work and you can break stories or find original insights that way.


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