Q&A with Alexander Heffner, Founder of Scoop08

(cross posted from Berkman Center site)

Heffner, Founder of Scoop08, will be joining us at the Berkman Center to present at our weekly Tuesday Luncheon series at 12:30 PM ET. The event will be webcast live, and there are still seats available if you’d like to join us in person (email rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu if you plan to attend).

Berkman Center intern Yvette Wohn conducted an email Alexander, where they discussed new media, the election, and the difference between blogging and journalism.
What elements of “old school journalism” are you implementing into your new media?

In every feature on the site, we try to preserve the quality of our journalism to offer substantive reporting as well as a breadth of opinion. We distinguish between the work of our news correspondents and that of our columnists. And we try to thoroughly develop our stories and engage student editors and reporters in a virtual newsroom, in which they can interact and trade ideas before a piece is published. We care about ideas…fresh, innovative ones that will motivate young people to engage in the political process. For instance, earlier this primary season, we proposed a bi-partisan debate between both the Democratic and Republican contenders. We argued that such a forum would challenge the typical parameters of political discourse and not merely pander to the party bases. Another old-school style we like is the Q&A; one of our writers recently published an interview with New York City Mayor MIke Bloomberg about his flirtation with the presidency.

How does the editorial board deal with fact-checking?

Scoop08, like professional media outlets, has a crew of copy editors and fact-checkers. We pride ourselves on adopting the standards of classic print journalism, while still offering frequently updated rapid-fire blog reports and follow-up stories.

Is Scoop08 a blog or a news site? What do you think is the difference between the two?

Scoop08 is a news site, which contains a regularly updated blog of student observations on the presidential race. We are an online student periodical, which aims to publish the work — news and opinion — of as many young people as possible. Unlike blogs, news sites tend to offer more hard fact and to shape a diverse editorial voice, rather than promote an individual or group’s political views.

How different do you think campaign coverage is, if it done by students (especially from those who don’t have voting power)?

Many of our students are (or will be) eligible to vote in the 2008 presidential election. That said, regardless of age, the student lens is always intriguing. Students are more closely linked than many reporters to the world of academia, to their history textbooks, and to the study of politics. Our college and high school reporters offer insight into what students (and their professors) are thinking about 2008 political headlines.

Are the majority of your student participants under the age of 25?

Yes, if not every one. Our students participants come from across the educational spectrum, mostly in college and high school.

What kind of incentive do the writers have in working for Scoop08?

Scoop08’s engine is fired by the volunteer efforts of students across the nation. The incentive, in part, is feeling empowered in assuming a critical role in our democracy — and consolidating the student voice in a productive way. Besides the philosophical incentive, it’s an excellent way for students to develop their interest in journalism, both for first-timers and more seasoned journos.

What happens to Scoop08 after the election?

At the moment, we’re focused intensely on covering the 2008 presidential race: all of the remaining candidates, the central policy debates, the lead-up to the conventions, and every possible conceivable angle. In the coming months, Scoop08 plans to intensify its efforts to break news with more original, investigative reporting. We’re also in the process of assembling a team of chief correspondents in every state to cover what might be an unprecedented nationwide contest. Scoop08 version 2.0, an upgraded site launching soon, will also connect us to a broader cross-section of the blogosphere with more links to non-Scoop08 online stories that we encourage our readers to see. But after this year, we hope to continue reporting on the political scene and public affairs…the 2010 midterm elections, the 2012 race for the White House, and beyond.