Political Organizers Amanda Michel and Zack Exley, Specialists in Use of the Internet, Join OffTheBus.Net for the 2008 cycle.
New York, NY - June 12, 2007 - The Huffington Post and NewAssignment.Net today announced that Amanda Michel and Zack Exley, two of the most experienced Internet organizers in politics, have joined OffTheBus.Net, their new joint venture in campaign journalism.
Michel will be Project Director; Exley will be Senior Adviser and a traveling correspondent.
OffTheBus is the collaboration announced in March between Jay Rosen's pilot project, NewAssignment.Net, and the Huffington Post, where Arianna Huffington is founder and editor-in-chief. It is set to launch in mid-July as a network of campaign bloggers who have diverse views and distinct beats, and other volunteers for "distributed" reporting projects that would be hard for a traditional news organization to undertake.
Huffington and Rosen will be Co-publishers, setting direction and overseeing the evolution of OffTheBus as the campaign unfolds.
Running the day-to-day operations as Project Director will be Michel, who worked for Kerry's Internet team in 2004; before that she was National Director of Generation Dean for the Howard Dean campaign. Most recently she's been been Director of Participation for NewAssignment.Net. She also worked at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Exley (www.zackexley.com) was Director of Online Organizing and Communications for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004. He also directed the online campaign for the British Labor Party's 2005 re-election. He will advise on web strategy, help drive site development overall, and report for OfftheBus from overlooked vantage points on the campaign trail.
Exley and Michel are co-founders (with others) of the New Organizing Institute, which trains young techies and organizers in the essentials of campaigning online. Exley serves as president.
Both could have worked for presidential candidates in this cycle but chose instead to take what they learned from organizing campaigns over the Net and adapt it to political journalism on the Web.
OffTheBus is designed to be an editorial engine for an alternative form of campaign journalism, the strength of which is the number of people who volunteer to be involved in producing for it. Some projects--like combing over documents that have been put online or fanning out to cover an event going on many places at once- may require hundreds of participants at a time.
Amanda Michel said: "The promise of this project is its dual nature: on the one hand, there's the organic process of people writing and doing commentary on the campaigns; on the other, there's highly-focused and collaborative network journalism. We're looking to be very nimble in getting behind campaigns' closed doors, and finding out what Americans are thinking about the upcoming election and its candidates."
Zack Exley said: "A revolution has changed the way political campaigns work in this country. But most mainstream political journalists don't have the slightest inkling what it's about. That's because it didn't happen on the campaign bus, but rather out among the voters themselves. By enlisting thousands of citizen journalists from every community, we think we can put together a moving picture of 21st century politics that's simply not possible within the mainstream media's limited resources."
Jay Rosen said: "We know the combination can work: personal blogs and diaries freely kept, and front pages filtered for the best stuff. To that we're going to add more organized acts of journalism that reveal what's going on out there by distributing the work successfully. Building a base of volunteers who can help us in that is hard but doable. Having organized people online to accomplish things, Amanda Michel and Zack Exley bring a tough realism about the Internet that is invaluable to projects like this. They also know how campaigns for president operate."
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said: "Amanda and Zack would have been warmly welcomed by any top presidential campaign, so we are thrilled that they see the excitement and promise of OffTheBus and decided to join us. They are prime examples of a new breed of young people who get politics, get the Internet, get journalism -- and see how citizen journalism can completely change the dynamics of the game. We think political reporting can be far different than what the pack does, and will be better as the result of the participation of more players from outside the mainstream."
OffTheBus.Net will combine the people-organizing advantages of the web -- the falling costs for widely-disseminated people to share information and collaborate -- with the web's strength as a flexible, multi-media publishing platform. The site will cover the top candidates in both the Republican and Democratic races. Page editors as filters will apply the same standards of quality, accuracy and truthfulness to all posts and all candidates.
When fully launched, the site will feature:
* an open platform design (similar to Daily Kos, TPM Café, or TownHall.com) that permits anyone to have an OffTheBus blog who signs up and fills out a profile requiring some disclosure;
* a blogging platform that starts simple and improves by a build-to-demand method as users try to do more with it;
* an intelligent filtering system to promote the strongest material to the front page and feature new talent;
* candidate-specific pages and RSS feeds that offer news and commentary on a single campaign;
* original beat blogging across candidates and about candidates;
* distributed reporting projects requiring the quick and timely help of volunteers already signed up with the site;
* collaboration with The Huffington Post's political news operation overseen by political editor Thomas Edsall.
NewAssignment.Net, founded by Jay Rosen, is a non-profit pilot project housed in the Department of Journalism at New York University, where Rosen is on the faculty. The project began in July 2006 with a development grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Its mission is to spark innovation in "open platform" journalism and distributed reporting by doing original work in the open and causing others to join in development of the practice. Others funders include Craig Newmark, the Sunlight Foundation, Reuters Media, Cambrian House.
About The Huffington Post:
The Huffington Post has become, according to The New York Times, "a well-known, oft-cited news media brand in the blink of an eye." It has grown into one of the most linked to news sites on the Internet, with over 3.4 million unique visitors and 70 million page views each month. The Huffington Post combines breaking news, media commentary and user-created content with more than 800 contributors from the worlds of politics, entertainment and media.
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