Here’s an example of local opinion and commentary done right. This article in today’s Indianapolis Star summarizes the candidates and makes recommendations for the upcoming House races. The paper’s Editorial Board interviewed the candidates for this piece, noted strengths and weaknesses and even talked about one incumbent who “frequently rambled and was disjointed in her responses to questions.”
This is exactly the sort of local coverage that newspapers are uniquely qualified for. Further, although the article is freely available on the Star’s website, the print version fits nicely on one page and features a map of the state with each district clearly identified; I’m not sure why the map is left off the online version. While it’s possible to post reader comments about the story on the Star’s site, I don’t think the paper goes far enough to encourage this level of community involvement.
Why not use the paper itself to stimulate more community input and debate on these candidates? They should have put a sidebar or some other element in the paper saying something like “Give us your feedback and help other voters learn more about the issues and the candidates at www.indystar.com/2006races.” Instead, the article in print provides no information about the ability to provide feedback and comments online. I generally don’t believe URLs in print cause many people to go online, but an invitation like this is more meaningful than most. Another nice touch would have been to videotape the Editorial Board interviews and post them alongside each district summary online; again, this could have been played up in print, driving more people to the Star’s website.