Wiki can be wicked but reader input worthwhile goal

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While publishers love to tout the one-to-one relationship between their medium and each individual reader, there's just something about letting consumers talk back that suggests a whole new relationship to be had. This tactic can backfire and embarrass publishers-as a couple major dailies have learned-but in their efforts to prove their papers can be "interactive" in a digital age, you can bet publishers will keep on providing new platforms for reader input.

Just remember what your parents told you: Relationships take work.

Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times found out last June not every one of its readers is a civic-minded disciple of the vox populi, when then-editorial page editor Michael Kinsley opened up the paper's printed editorials to online editing by readers in a format called Wikitorials. Then reality intervened; the Times pulled the experiment after two days, saying that a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material including porn. The Washington Post had its own run-in with ill-willed readers in January.

But those comments sections are alive once again and, more surprisingly, Wikitorials are back, too. This time, they come from the Argus Leader, Gannett Co.'s daily in Sioux Falls, S.D. In an editor's note, the paper said it would not edit readers' contributions-it would simply delete the inappropriate ones.

Each attempt to better engage readers with a static product-the printed page-stands in for the broader battle to assert print's role in an increasingly digital world.