Some cool online journalism I've helped produce at the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World lately:
Live online chats with school-board candidates -- 11 of the 13 candidates agreed to chat with readers online, in real time, using my DHTML-driven chat software. Thanks to promotion from our local TV station and word of mouth, traffic (as measured by number of questions asked) increased steadily from chat to chat. I loved these chats for three reasons:
- Rawness. Readers were able to see for themselves how candidates responded and acted -- not seen through the eyes and ears of a newspaper reporter. Even the most unbiased reporter puts his or her mark on a story.
- Accessibility/convenience. Sure, there've been public candidate forums, but online chats let you interact with candidates from your own computer.
- Relative anonymity. We got a number of questions that Lawrence residents might not have been comfortable asking the candidates face-to-face -- and, hence, might otherwise have gone unanswered. Some might argue anonymity brings out the troublemakers, but that's what a moderator is for.
Also, we put together interactive "candidate selectors" for the city-commission race and school board race -- Click on the candidate quotes you agree with, and the script will tell you which candidates you agreed with the most. It's intended mostly as a guide, but it is, without a doubt, useful in that "hey, that really made me think about the candidates" sort of way. I decided to use quotes instead of straight "yes/no" or "agree/disagree" questions because, well, issues aren't always cut and dry.