One of the big lessons we’ve learned in just a few months into the Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker project is the enormous challenge of getting community members to think of themselves as journalists.
Because the carbon tax was taken up by the city as an electoral issue, and because there’s an immense storehouse of energy and environmental expertise within the Boulder community, we feel strongly that experts and commentators will rise to the surface and become active participants in the discussion over how well or poorly the city’s carbon tax dollars are being spent.
Yet our initial approach – create a group weblog where various players could share their views and talk with one another — hit a wall. Despite the obvious interest and expertise out there, we’ve found it’s just too high a hurdle for contributors to start by thinking of themselves as authors on a blog.
What we also know is that some of the same goals that journalists achieve through their work can be equally gained through the process of community conversation – just look at the example of Rathergate, the tip for which originated not on a blog but on a discussion forum. The idea is to collect and spotlight the “distributed journalism” taking place in the community, whether it’s someone undergoing an energy audit for their house, or sitting in on neighborhood council meeting.
We do believe that community shares the goal of wanting to address how effective this new carbon tax program is. They just want to go about it differently than we’d expected. So we’re about to try a new approach.
This week, we’ll launch a new bulletin board service on the site with the aim of drawing in those citizen journalists through the relatively simple mechanism of the online comment. As they become more and more engaged in the conversation, perhaps some will rise to the level of blog authors, perhaps not. The key is to develop a quality of conversation and intersection of different perspectives, whatever the technical mechanism. We’ll let you know what we learn.