"We're taking a look today at two new Web ventures that could help change how politics is covered. One, OffTheBus.net, is all of three months old, which these days makes it practically establishment. The other, Scoop08.com, is so new it hasn't even started yet. It's a national daily online newspaper by and for college and high school students and is preparing to go live on Sunday. That makes it the newest entry in the field and therefore the one with most of its ideals still intact.
"They both want to tackle imaginative, under-reported stories with their armies of citizen correspondents. They have been aided by low start-up costs: $150,000 for Off The Bus, and less than $20,000 for Scoop's first months of operation. Both rely on free labor.
Here's the first clue of the political slant of the new ventures:
"Arianna Huffington, who publishes OffTheBus along with Jay Rosen at New York University (www.newassignment.net), said OTB tries to get away from the pack mentality that reinforces itself with conventional wisdom. OTB goes by the slogan 'Campaign coverage by the people who aren't in the club.'"
Seelye doesn't delve into the clear politicalbias: Huffington is a well-known Hollywood activist and founder of the left-wing Huffington Post, while professor and media critic Jay Rosen blogs a more sedate style of liberalism. Of the other three on the masthead, Zack Exley and Amanda Michel worked for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004, while Neil Nagraj worked for the South Carolina Democratic party that year.
Seelye briefly described how one assignment got carried away into liberal advocacy:
"One followed Barack Obama organizers in a dozen states on a single day of national canvassing, a story that most media organizations ignored. Perhaps two dozen OTB correspondents fanned out, all filling out a uniform sheet (how many doors knocked on, etc.) and offering their own observations.
"The results were given to Mayhill Fowler, one of OTB's emerging star correspondents. She examined the reports and wrote a story from them, much the way the old Time magazine or this newspaper would use stringers in the field to send back files to be compiled by a writer. What's different at OTB is the transparency - the reader can see the full raw reports on which the final edited product is based."
"Some of them contained unabashed enthusiasm for Mr. Obama and suggested that some of OTB's correspondents had joined right in with the canvassing, a no-no in the MSM. I asked Ms. Huffington if that was a problem. She said that she didn't expect the correspondents to be completely neutral but she does expect them to be clear when they have a bias so that the reader can take that into account."
Besides the project from liberal activist Huffington, Seelye previewed another liberally stacked project, Scoop08.com, though Seelye managed not to call attention to the fact.
"The young men over at Scoop08 are still full of idealism about their project, which has already attracted 300 student journalists across the country. The two founders and editors are Alexander Heffner, 17, a senior at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Andrew Mangino, 20, a junior at Yale and the politics reporter for the Yale Daily News.
"The two met as interns on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election campaign last year but say Scoop08 will be nonpartisan. It has an advisory board with some big names in journalism - Frank Rich of The New York Times, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, Judy Woodruff of PBS - and in politics, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Senator Gary Hart, former Senator Al Simpson and Doug Sosnik, a former political director in the Clinton White House."
As documented by the Media Research Center and Times Watch, Rich, Alter, Woodruff are all liberal journalists, while Lieberman and Hart and Sosnik are Democrats, leaving only a moderate Republican, former RepublicanSen. Al Simpson of Wyoming on the other side.
"The idealism of Scoop08 is evident in its promotional material, which promises groundbreaking reports on exclusive topics from a fresh perspective....Both sites, by the way, are still recruiting; with more people, the wisdom of the crowd, by definition, can only expand."