The Guardian's US operations and New York University's Studio 20 programme have teamed up to ensure that the voices of ordinary American citizens are heard in the coverage of the coming presidential elections. The joint venture, entitled "Citizens Agenda", sees Amanda Michel, The Guardian US Open Editor, and Jay Rosen, Journalism professor at NYU, working together to over see project that aims to allow citizens to decide the focus of election coverage.
The two previously collaborated on The Huffington Post's "Off The Bus" project in 2008 that generated pro-am presidential election campaign coverage, and which was re-launched earlier this year in advance of the 2012 election.
In a Guardian article penned by Michel and Rosen, the pair explain that the Citizen's Agenda project "starts with a question: what do voters want the candidates to be discussing as they compete with each other in 2012? If we can get enough people to answer to that question, we'll have an alternative to election coverage as usual."
The Studio 20 team, headed by Rosen, will be helping managing digital engagement. NYU students will be tasked with keeping readers engaged by inventing and developing new features for the Guardian US site.
Once the project has heard what readers have to say about the elections, the team must apply it to their coverage. The project will not only be based around digital discussions, there is the potential to hold in-person debate about the election and the print product will also incorporate elements of the Citizen's Agenda.
Jim Brady of Digital Media First, partner of the citizens agenda project, told Nieman Lab that simply allowing people to vent their concerns is not enough. The project is not about creating a message board or a forum that is ignored by politicians, the ultimate aim is get candidates to listen to what ordinary people are saying: "There has to be a way to turn this into a full-circle feedback loop."
As Michels told Nieman lab, on the simplest level, the aim of the project is to find the answer to two basic questions: "What is it that you need? What can we do to help?"