Many years ago, I took a break from journalism for a few months and worked in Illinois for the National Organization for Women, which sought ratified of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in that state.
I remember the words of a veteran political organization, who went on to work in a senior role at the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton era. He said, “just start by asking people if they’ll make a few phone calls. Then ask them to come in and lick a few envelopes. Then ask them to bring a friend with them to the canvassing center to address envelopes to their friends. Then ask them to go canvassing. And then ask them to start writing letters, and seeing their lawmakers. Before long they.ll be committee and the won.t be any way they are going back.”
I think that’s a model for civic engagement and news reading. There’s nothing partisan about it. News organizations need to invite the public into the fray, into the discussion, into the great and real business of democracy. You can call that R&D.