Arianna Huffington and I are announcing today a new joint venture in campaign journalism. It will be a partnership between NewAssignment.Net, my experimental site for "pro-am" journalism, and the Huffington Post, where I have been an occasional contributor. By having more eyes and ears, more voices, and more people with more sources of information, more experts with more specialties, more writers on more beats, some of them quite offbeat, we hope to offer a different kind of coverage.
Our idea is not complicated: it's campaign reporting by a great many more people than would ever fit on the bus that the boys (and girls) of the press have famously gotten on and off every four years, as they try to cover the race for president.
So instead of one well-placed reporter trailing John Edwards wherever he goes (which is one way of doing it) some 40 or 50 differently-placed people tracking different parts of the Edwards campaign, all with peculiar beats and personal blogs linked together by virtue of having a common editor and a page through which the best and most original stuff filters out to the greater readership of the Web, especially via the Huffington Post.
This was the idea I sketched for Arianna and her editorial team. "And we should do it for multiple candidates," I said. I left it to them to decide how far down the probability scale we would reach.
Arianna's announcement post from today has most of the details you'll need. "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," she writes. "The larger campaigns could have 50 to 100 or more people following them." The group blogs will also feature a compendium of the merely useful information about each candidate, including latest speeches, upcoming appearances, new videos out, the official and unofficial ads, news coverage of course, and oddities like an organizational chart.
Sometime this spring, then, we'll roll out twelve new pages at NewAssignment.Net with a mix of news, information, original reporting and views not-found-elsewhere. Behind each candidate page will be a contributors' network built by hand, made up of people who would like to participate in the 2008 election by claiming a campaign beat and making their own news and commentary, in collaboration with others doing the same thing (but coming from a different place.) All overseen by an editor paid to make the whole thing run, and evaluated by how good the twelves pages are.
In our current plan, the new sites will be co-branded by the Huffington Post, but they will live at a section of our site, which is how Assignment Zero, our current project with Wired.com, works. (Read David Carr's column about it in the New York Times.)
So there's a structure, and for the contributors substantial freedom within that structure. Some order, some chaos. There are editors, but contributors post what they want at their own mini-blogs. We don't pay you for your time if you choose to become one of our contributors. Neither do we own your work. A Creative Commons license will apply to it. There will be no ads at the NewAssignment.Net site, which is non-profit, an experiment with the power-of-many in online journalism. The Huffington Post, which does have ads, will have the right to pull content from our 12 candidate pages.
The Huffington Post is going to cover the 2008 campaign in a variety of ways. It's been hiring reporters to do original digging. It willl have the normal range of contributors doing commentary for the HP blog. It will do quick investigations. And it will try the strength-in-numbers approach with NewAssignment.Net.
If you'd like to be involved as a contributor, read Arianna's post, send your name, contact info, and which campaign you may want to follow to firstname.lastname@example.org.