Sunday, February 29, 2004

I find the issue of civic engagement interesting (Lew Friedland was actually my reporting prof last semester). My class was focused on community reporting, and the main focus was on actually going out and finding the civic and opinion leaders in the community and talking to them. I met people who were deeply involved, many at a grassroots level, with issues that deeply concerned them. Most of the people I talked to were older, with grown children, and these were issues that they had been involved in since they were in their twenties and thirties. They hold community meetings, and conduct most of their business on a face-to-face level. These are people who are actively engaged in their community. I did see as much of the involvement from younger generations in the community.

At the same time, I look at the involvement of my generation in the Howard Dean campaign, and their amazing engagement on a more national level. "The Dean Connection" (which I suggest you look up on Lexis Nexis, it's really good), was an article in The New York Times magazine, that looked at several individuals who gave up their lives as they knew them, packed up and dedicated themselves to the campaign. Local meetings were organized all through the Internet and blogs. People would meet to talk about Dean and how he had affected their lives. When the article was written, there were over 900 unofficial Dean groups. The grassroots organizing for the campaign was unlike any campaign I had ever heard of before.

As we can see, the Dean campaign has lost its momentum. But perhaps the organizing factors of the campaign can influence future civic engagement. Could something similar happen on a local level, with the right organization. Local blogs about community issues, could potentially increase civic engagement. People may start out participating from the comfort of their own home, because involvement on the Web is a lesser investment. But that may encourage them to organize outside of the Blog or chatroom, which could perhaps increase involvement.

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