When I,Reporter launched Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker last summer, we knew from meetings with Boulder city officials that they were planning their own web site to promote the city’s unique greenhouse gas reduction initiative.
Not only didn’t that stop us, it encouraged us. There are obvious reasons for the existence of a journalistic site like ours — to serve as an independent voice about and a watchdog over these government efforts.
But now, almost one year on, we’ve come to understand another important reason why our site is so needed. That’s because when it comes to Boulder’s publicly-funded web information site, there may be web governance for the people, but there just doesn’t seem to be web governance by the people.
But what’s missing? Something we believe is the most important thing of all — the authentic voices and views of the community in a dialogue with each other and their elected officials.
The desire for dialogue is something that’s central to our own efforts, and while we admit it’s not easy to foster a digital democracy, we believe true success rises or falls on that one idea.
Meanwhile, the city government’s site so far seems to have ignored that imperative. There’s little sign of a basic online discussion forum or a comments area, let alone the more sophisticated range of online tools for user-generated content like user blogs or video and photo uploads or topical wikis.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that even an enlightened local government like Boulder’s would still be behind the curve when it comes to using digital media to help govern. And they’re smart, dedicated people who may yet bring their web initiatives into the citizen journalism age.
But, meanwhile, we see all the more clearly why independent, journalistic enterprises like our own, supported by forward-looking foundations like Knight, remain essential as the risk-taking vanguard for democratic engagement in a digital world.