Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WIKITORIAL EXPERIMENT: How can newspapers make editorials engaging again in the digital age?

Have you ever disagreed with a New Haven Register editorial? Have you ever wished you could rewrite it?

Well the New Haven Register editorial department is dusting off an experiment already attempted by other newspapers in the past that allows readers to 'wiki' (or edit and rewrite) our editorial stance on a subject. We want to hit where they've missed.

The practice alone raises a number of questions, especially amongst those in the newsroom. Does it devalue our original editorial? Does it dirty our editorial voice? Can it strengthen it? Does it do nothing but invite trouble and vulgarity? Are there some things we should and shouldn't open to be 'wikified'?

The soul of the idea is involving the community in what we do. The blood in the idea is we want to make our readers' voices louder. We want the words on our pages to be a constructive community dialogue -- not a speech.

Maybe it's crossing the line? Maybe we need a singular voice? Maybe it needs some work in practice to be more practical. Maybe this kind of idea is more applicable in other parts of what we do than the editorial. But we should experiment with this medium and ask these questions before ruling them out.

And then there's the question of whether our readers in the community even understand what a 'wiki' is. Or if they care? Maybe it's a 'neat' concept -- but what does it accomplish? Should it accomplish anything?

For now, we're just planting the seed and putting some water on it. We will fix it and nurture it as we need to. Jeff Jarvis (of the Journal Register Company Advisory Board) has written plenty to make this concept more constructive and appealing. I like what he has to say.

Read what this project's leader Jordan Fenster has to say about this idea.

I'd really like to gather some thoughts from the media community and our local readers about why this works or doesn't work.

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