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MTV's 'Choose or Lose' announces citizen journalism campaign

The Viacom division has launched a mobile-centric initiative to bring nontraditional reporting to the 2008 election.

As part of its quadrennial "Choose or Lose" youth voting initiative, MTV has announced a "Street Team" of 51 young amateur journalists, one from each state and the District of Columbia, who have been selected to cover the 2008 election and emphasize issues important to the younger generation.

"We couldn't ignore the explosion in self-publishing and self-organization and all the tools that young people have now to express themselves on issues of importance as well as consume information," said Ian Rowe, vice president of public affairs and strategic partnerships and MTV, "and so we wanted to have the innovations in 2008 really capitalize on all the new digital tools that are out there for our audience."

Weekly reports from each member of the "Street Team" will appear, starting in January, on a new mobile site, the existing MTV Mobile, the ThinkMTV social network (which launched earlier this year), and the 1,800+ sites in the Associated Press Online Video Network. The reports will consist of blog entries, videos, photos, audio podcasts, and even animation.

The citizen journalism project has been funded by a $700,000 grant from the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation's Knight News Challenge. Each member of the team has been provided with mobile equipment--laptops, video cameras, mobile phones--and software provided by Adobe as part of the company's Adobe Youth Voices philanthropy program.

MTV, a division of Viacom, has emphasized that this will not be a partisan effort. According to a release from the youth media hub, the "Street Team" members range from "seasoned student newspaper journalists to documentary filmmakers, the children of once-illegal immigrants to community organizers...conservative, liberal, from big cities and small towns."

Rowe explained that a passion for politics in general, not any particular affiliation, was the goal. "We've recruited a very diverse population," he said. "Some are more ardently conservative, some are more ardently liberal, but they weren't chosen for their political views. For all of them the goal is to produce objective reporting."

Efforts will focus on not only traditional coverage of political primaries, but also how national issues play out locally in each state. Additionally, there will be a focus on the 18-35 demographic: how the election will affect young voters, issues of relevance to youth that are underreported by mainstream news, and how politics are shaped by new technology.

MTV is already working with the News Corp.-owned social network MySpace on a series of televised and Webcast dialogues with presidential candidates.