Beyond the Article: Driving Political Engagement Instead of Confusion

How often have you read an article with a political angle at the local, state or federal level and wondered:

  • Who is my representative?
  • What’s their stand on the issue?
  • How can I give them feedback easily?
  • What do other groups that I respect have to say about the issue?
  • Why didn’t I learn about this meeting or issue before the vote took place?
  • Where do my fellow constituents stand on the issue?

While traditional news articles may enrage, they rarely help people engage as they lack the personalized content and tools for people to easily take intelligent action.

So here’s my recommendations:

  1.  Leverage the power of GIS/mapping to identify which elected officials or candidates are aligned to each reader. Instead of your audience wondering which one of the city council members or county commissioners represent them, in exchange for users entering their addresses, news organizations can display the specific elected officials aligned to their location.
  2. Survey the elected officials about their stances and publish their positions prior to major votes.
  3. Send alerts via email, SMS, etc.. notifying your audience when something of concern to them is coming up – with the information about where their elected officials stand on the issue.
  4. Enable your audience to vote in favor or against the specific issues – and give them the ability to send their feedback either privately directly to their specific elected officials or post their comments online.
  5. Segment the audience vote and feedback by political district so that representatives and residents in that district are able to see what their fellow constituents are saying – and not have it lost in the larger noise from people outside their district.
  6. Capture the elected officials votes on issues and save them so your audience can easily scan through them come voting time or if they have questions in the future.

Just imagine if news organizations implemented these six basic concepts; what it would  mean for both civic and site engagement.

Today, all the pieces exist to execute this vision for interactive personalized political “journalism,” but no one has merged them together into a seamless experience for both journalist and reader.

Sunlight Labs and others have built powerful services that provide elected official information and even make it easy to give feedback at the state and congressional level. Combined with the many different interactive survey tools it should be “easy” to hack this personalized political vision together.

The bottom line is all the individual components exist today, someone just needs to have the courage and resources to pull them all together into one seamless whole.

And that organization will win the election for the best political coverage platform and our undying gratitude for your service to our nation!

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