Okay, this isn't as bad as it sounds. (Or as good, depending on your point of view.) The Wisconsin State Journal isn't quite selling off its front page to popular tastes by letting readers vote for the story they'd most like to read on page 1 the next day. For example: here are the choices for tomorrow's paper:
Vote for the story you'd most like to read in tomorrow's Wisconsin State Journal.
Ford layoffs have broader economic implications
What should we do about ex-cons returning to Madison?
Bush defends domestic spying
There will be a new No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll.
FDA considers new over-the-counter diet pill
All of them, with the exception of the gratuitously included sports story, seem like legit page 1 possibilities, and the paper is only ceding a small portion of its front page to vox populi. My guess is the paper's Web site will be flooded with votes. What is less certain is that the voters will be taking their newfound role as editor seriously.
So, even as I'm scrupulously trying not to overreact, the slippery slope implications of this kind of thing make me queasy. Any newspaper worth its salt ought to be encouraging and embracing reader feedback through all sorts of mechanisms -- the ombudsman, reader forums, surveys, focus groups, and by having editors and reporters answer the phone or email. But I'm not ready to turn news judgment into a plebiscite.
If that's where we're going, would-be journalists can stop spending their parents' money on journalism school and can simply enroll in public polling courses.