Friday, February 02, 2007

Baristanet Sticks it to The Man!

Got an email from Liz George at Baristanet--y'all know who theyare...that bunch of evil citizen journalist stirring up the pot and making it bad for The Press in Montclair, NJ...

So, here's the dirt: out in Glen Ridge, there's a bond referendum calling for the astroturfing of a public park (geeze! only in NJ would they think of paving and plasticating a park! great pic-nic'ing on 'turf!)

The folks at Baristanet wanted to know what The People thought about this. You'd think the Star Ledger would want to know, too, right??

Well, maybe not so much...

Baristanet's got some great connections--one of them is SurveyUSA, a company that can easily conduct surveys on questions like "do you want your kids to be playing baseball on carpet?" (I'm oversimplifying--more detail here)
So, SurveyUSA did a telephone poll to find out what people thought about the astroturfing referendum...and Baristanet published the results here.

Now, Baristanet wanted to share the results of the poll with the Star Ledger, the local paper for the area (corporate owned, I might add--I used to live in NJ and watched the SL go down the tubes). But the Ledger declined. Debbie Gallant wrote about it in this post which got some feedback from the Mayor himself!

There are great things going on here: Baristanet is a credible, transparent, well-organized citizen journalism effort (*with* an editorial model.) They are credible enough that the Mayor has left comments and is part of their conversation. Yes, this is something Mayors *should* be doing--no matter what means of media their constituency uses, they should be in touch and in contact. And especially in a state where there is no local television nor other local media coverage! When there is no local television coverage, and no local newspaper coverage, the Mayor must respond wherever he finds credible people talking about the issues--regardless if they're using blogging software or building it on Dreamweaver.

Diddy wa/P left the following amusing comment on Baristanet:you surveyed 131 people. maybe there are more people like myself who are pro turf but saw your name on caller id and passed on your silly little poll. i'd say its more likely the anti turf people answered the call because they are so crazed about the issue. i'm all for turf but won't lose any sleep over it if it fails. end of the day i'm still stuck in nj watching my property tax go up so somebody can get my income back in a property tax break scam. and that is the crux of web 2.0. Diddy might be right that there are more people who are pro turf. But if they're taking a moral high road and not answering the calls, and not using the media, they're voices won't be heard. It will be the people who are "crazed about the issue," who engage in civic discourse and make their voices heard, who will change the issue.

And I guess Diddy never heard about how Kansas became a bastion of the right wing because nobody cared about the little things...and didn't bother to voice their opposition...

Note: I cannot stress enough the dire situation of lack of media in the state of New Jersey (or any place that lacks local media.) Living in the shadows of both New York and Philadelphia has left New Jersey with no broadcast tv signal to latch on to so that they might create local news programs. Growing up there, I never saw a local high school football game on TV, or of five-car pileups on Rt 1; never heard of murders in my town or the race riots in New Brunswick. Our lives centered around New York (and Newark, when things got too hot.) Our local paper was our lifeline to our community--and a ricky-ticky local radio station. But when the paper got bought by a Corporation, which then shut down local bureaus and started giving us more wire service coverage and coverage of towns more than 20 miles away, we started to rely on word of mouth. Case in point: after the Rodney King trial, there were rumors of riots in New Brunswick. Friends from across the river were calling me to find out if anything was going on because we had no coverage of any kind--newspaper or tv. This was the 1990's, before the ubiquity of the net. We knew tv would not be there--we knew radio, which had gone over to Clear Channel, wouldn't be there, we knew the press wouldn't be there. My then-husband and I went out into town to find out what was going on, then came back and called everyone we knew, who then called others to tell them there were no riots and everyone was safe.

In a media saturated time, we had to rely on word of mouth.

Do you now understand why we need citizen journalism on the Internet?

Thanks, Baristanet, for sticking it to The Man....who left Town a very long time ago...

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