So when the Los Angeles Times' foray into "wikitorials," which allow readers to collaborate and write their own editorials online, was cut short after just two days on the paper's Web site, some traditional journalists let out a sigh of relief. Posters ambushed the experiment (topic: Iraq war) by posting offensive language and pornographic images during the wee hours of the night and it had to be shut.
Now Jeff Jarvis, blogger of BuzzMachine.com fame and longtime advocate of "citizen journalists," is afraid that wikitorials have been given "the cooties" and is encouraging the L.A. Times and others to give them a second chance.
"The L.A. Times' heart was in the right place," Jarvis says. He believes the initial mistake in The Times' first foray was the topic.
"No one is ever going to agree on the Iraq war. Choosing that was the problem," says Jarvis, who also consults for the New York Times Co. at About.com. "The better thing to do is electrify an Oxford debate ... here's a pro and here's a con and let the best side win."
"There is a bozo in every crowd. We're not all criminals, but a few among us are," Jarvis says. "But in the end, in a democracy, it's all about the public's opinion. The more ways to hear the public `s opinion that you have, the better off you are." So speak up, people.