Case study: National Constitution Center 12.28.10 0
by in Case Study

A quick round of channel surfing through cable news would tell you that the United States Constitution increasingly permeates our everyday political discourse. Seeing an opportunity, Philadelphia’s The National Constitution Center turned to Technically Media. Along with our friends at the award-winning design firm Happy Cog, we worked to create a state-of-the-art blog platform to help the Center build an audience they can turn into visitors, donors and (perhaps most importantly) informed citizens.

Constitution Daily, the National Constitution Center's new blog.

Along with the Center, Technically Media worked to install the journalistic ethos of currency and objectivity into Constitution Daily, a blog where Center staff, guests and top scholars add much-needed context to current events launched December 23rd, 2010.

From The Newsmakers

The Center’s unique position as a museum and an event space attracts some of the most important names in politics, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Karl Rove. Using Constitution Daily, Center staff are now able to get the unique perspective of the movers and shakers that pass through. When Time Managing Editor Rick Stengal visited the Center to promote his new book, the Center was able to ask Stengal about the Wikileaks controversy through a quick Flip camera interview in the building’s green room before Stengal went on stage. Stengal was able to offer the unique perspective of an American journalist about an issue that had serious implications on the First Amendment. The blog also allows Constitutional scholars a public forum to add depth to current events. When Christine O’Donnell questioned the existence of the phrase “Church and State” in the Constitution, on-staff scholar Dr. Steve Frank was able to dive into the matter from the perspective of the Federalist papers and go deeper than the knee-jerk reaction that plagues cable news.

Taking Action

Thanks, in part, to Constitution Center CEO David Eisner‘s background in civil service, the Center is able to help its visitors become citizens through its connections with volunteer organizations. Therefore, encouraging Constitution Daily readers to take action after reading was important to the Center. Nearly every story on Constitution Daily has what we call a “take action” box where the reader is provided with easy links to act on the information they just read by commenting, contacting their representative or by volunteering with a relevant charity or non-profit.

Take action box

The "Take Action" box that encourages user participation.

Reactions

One of the primary goals of Constitution Daily is to facilitate smart discussion around Constitutional issues. But as any news editor knows, sometimes online comments can get a bit uncivilized. We believe that rewarding good behavior is the key to a good discussion forum, so we’ve implemented a few tricks: Showing “reactions” with every article headline. Made up of Facebook likes, tweets and comments, “reactions” can help readers see what stories are getting the most attention and offer incentives for interacting with content that may not be getting as much attention as the reader desires. For example, if a reader is passionate about the 4th amendment and a recent post about privacy isn’t getting any reactions, the reader is incentivized to pass along the post.

Reactions are a combination of Tweets, Facebbook likes and comments.

Allowing users to up and down vote comments. Much like the social news site Digg, readers can moderate themselves through up and down votes. The Center doesn’t have a dedicated comment moderator so Constitution Daily readers must play a role in moderation if the comment thread is to remain civil.

Digg-style up/down votes.

Highlighting comments throughout the site (including the home page). Comments don’t just live on the article page, they appear to help add context to stories and issues.

A comment featured on the home page.

A comment highlighted on the Issue Page.

Facebook Connect to ensure accountability and use of real names. People like to say inflammatory things without their real name attached. Facebook Connect helps keep real names attached to comments while providing a smooth login process.

Users are encouraged to use Facebook Connect.

Hot Issues

Even if the reader doesn’t closely follow the news, Constitution Daily has several ways of seeing what issues are “trending.” Thanks to the work of Happy Cog, the Center is able to highlight issues that are in the news. Not only does this help the blog retain its currency, it provides a change to highlight content from the archives.

Training newsgatherers

Technically Media helped train National Constitution Center staff to make the most of the newsmakers and events that often pass through the center. This included capturing, editing and posting video, using WordPress, livechating with educators during national holidays and more.

TL:DR: How @technicallyM helped the @constitutionctr build an audience | Tweet This
Sean Blanda is one of the co-founders of Technically Media and lives in South Philadelphia where he often enjoys burritos and Kenzingers.

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