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AOL does its civic duty

America Online signs on two services that it hopes will help members make more informed decisions about public policy and politics.

As citizens in eight states place their ballots in primary elections today, America Online signed on two services that it hopes will help members make more informed decisions about public policy and politics.

Starting June 4, will provide content in the Politics section of AOL's News channel, while will be included in AOL's NewsTalk, which is the online service's political forum. The two services also will be featured in the News channel's Newsstand on a rotating basis and, later this summer, the two content providers will be featured in a special AOL section devoted to the 1998 elections.

"Our Politics area will give members the chance to debate the issues, track legislation before Congress, and follow political campaigns around the country," AOL chairman Steve Case said in a statement.

AOL is clearly entering a hot area. During the last presidential election, the Net recorded its most crowded day to date, with people clogging the system trying to get up-to-date results.

In fact, the Net is increasingly becoming an important vehicle for politicians and citizens alike.

Some have called it a great equalizer, in that politicians with fewer financial resources don't have to pay big money for Web sites to reach constituents.

AOL and the two new content partners will be celebrating the launch by hosting an online discussion with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R- Georgia), Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution, and Carrie Brandon of Bristol Myers Squibb Company. The panel, which will be moderated by editor and former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont and a delegate from the National Retirement Savings Summit, will address Social Security and retirement savings.

"Our goal is to use our service and the medium to increase civic participation," said Case. "By teaming with two of the online leaders in public policy, we are tapping into a vast resource that will give our members instant access to information about public policy and political candidates, making it easier to become involved in the national discussion."