August 28, 2006 How you can help

Jay Rosen is looking for story ideas:

I need PressThink readers to help me out by thinking about stories that would be right for a New Assignment test run later this fall. By “right” for a NewAssignment.Net test I mean something that:

  • is under-covered, poorly covered or not covered at all by the major news media;
  • lends itself to “distributed reporting,” where a bunch of people—dispersed but connected by the Net—could contribute knowledge in a manner that would be hard for a reporter or even two or three to duplicate;
  • is a story of national, international or regional importance— newsworthy, in other words;
  • is doable in about six weeks time;

This isn’t a specific story idea, but it should lead in the right direction. I have said (here and here) that journalists should tell a different story about politics: the story of citizens’ experience with policy and governance more than the story of politicians’ political wrangling. I think this concept fits the four bullet points–especially the second. Distributed reporting would enable the network to uncover the most illustrative and contextually accurate citizen experiences of the stuff that really matters in politics.

The press often ignores such stories in favor of “horse-race” and “inside baseball” models of coverage–interesting for journalists but of little political use for citizens.

It seems to me that would be in a perfect position to choose a close race in an important House or Senate election and cover it throughout the fall (misses on the fourth bullet point, IOW) by closely examining 1) the effects of the candidates’ earlier policies on citizens, and 2) cogent analysis of the likely effects of proposed policy (lots of potential source development here, especially non-expert). Such coverage may be more politically useful. It will certainly be more ethical (re: that second “here” above).

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