News Local

New blogging project aims to improve voter information

SUZANNE WILTON, 24 HOURS
Retired Wall Street trader and former Berkely, Ca. professor Mark Latham launched VoterMedia.org, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest project aimed at improving voter information.

Retired Wall Street trader and former Berkely, Ca. professor Mark Latham launched VoterMedia.org, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest project aimed at improving voter information.

After years of trying unsuccessfully to reform large corporations and make them more accountable to shareholders, financial economist Mark Latham abandoned the boardroom and took his ideas to the voting public.

The retired Wall Street trader and former Berkeley, Ca. professor launched VoterMedia.org, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest project aimed at improving voter information.

The website connects the community with its elected leaders by allowing voters to allocate community funds to competing blogs. The project was successful at UBC and is expanding to municipal elections.

Latham, 56, has kicked in $5,000 of his own cash for a blogging contest in five Lower Mainland cities - $1,000 will be spread through each community.

It may only amount to pennies per post, but Latham said it's an important democratic effort he hopes will catch on.

Independent bloggers, he argues, are a better source of information and analyses than traditional sources like newspapers, which are faced with increasingly stretched resources and are potentially influenced by advertisers.

"Voters aren't stupid, they're just busy," he said.

Latham said people want good information and will vote money to an information organization that's going to do a lot of analyses.

The VoterMedia contest is open to all bloggers on the civic campaign, including working journalists.

Latham argues voter-directed funding will help professionalize independent bloggers and give professional journalists a new incentive to provide in-depth political coverage.

The concept sprang from Latham's work as a professor and was originally designed for corporations. He wanted companies to allocate money to providing better - and more independent - information to shareholders about how they were performing.

"Of course, the boards didn't really like this idea," he said.

He is hoping voters in the civic election will be more receptive.