On Monday, the Columbia Journalism Review profiled PolicyMic, a growing web site that is "is making news and journalism more interactive by letting a user’s contributions be just as important as a writer’s original content." The site was created two years ago, counts 60,000 registered users and claims 7.5 million monthly unique visits.
Co-founder Jake Horowitz explains the PolicyMic philosophy:
When you sign up for an account on the site, you start off as a commenter, with a small word limit. As you get more [credit] for saying smart things in the comments, you work your way up through a system of levels, and at the highest level you become a pundit.
Credits, dubbed "mics", are earned from peers. A number of web sites offer similar functionality, but PolicyMic appears to be the first to reward its more consistent, hopefully thoughtful readers with a shot at the microphone.
Comment sections are problematic for most news organizations, with many struggling to maintain dialogue and civility within a fairly divided U.S. electorate. The Huffington Post recently announed plans to end anonymous comments, an idea that seemed to draw as much skepticism as praise.
Although PolicyMic isn't quite American Idol – the comment-race winners are given only unpaid spots – I like the idea of crowdsourcing voices. While I am less keen to add to the world of pundits, it might be helpful to have vetted them among a jury of their politically varied peers. What pundit wouldn't benefit from a periodic reality check?