Petitioning goes high-tech
Yet another something else on the Web for reporters to check -- your latest online petition.
One of the latest to go up at petitiononline.com (as it describes itself "PetitionOnline.com is a combination of a kind of optimisitic political hobby, and a forward-looking experiment in diffuse Internet democracy") is to free Christopher Pittman, the S.C. teenager convicted of killing his grandparents when he was 12. The "Zoloft defense" essentially claimed the anti-depressant put him in the state of mind to do it. Pittman's supporters are using a second site, thepetitionsite.com, to get support for a bill that would eliminate mandatory sentencing for juveniles. (Pittman got 30 years.)
Thepetitionsite.com most popular petitions right now deal with not stopping the filibuster, the Climate Stewardship Act, etc. Over at PetitionOnline, the most popular include two on "American Idol" -- one for a recount, one to boycott the show -- one to renew "Third Watch" and one to "Stop Ashlee Simpson." (OK, so maybe there is hope for democracy after all.)
Of course, as with everything, while organizers tout these as a way to easily marshal millions of signatures, they also dilute the impact so that politicians, business leaders, etc., can more easily brush it off as one more crackpot petition. It's the law of unintended consequences. (Petitiononline touts responses from CNN and Microsoft to petitions. Both seem like pretty standard stuff.)
Petitions either are delivered by e-mailing your target the link (wonder if that ever will get through the spam filters?) -- or printing them out and dropping them on the doorstep (with fee-based help, if you need it).
Both sites are searchable, so a search by your town, county or state name might be worthwhile from time to time to see what issues are boiling in some group's craw. (Here are searches for South Carolina on petitionsite and petitiononline.) Even better would be if these sites had a tagging system with a feed that could be set up to monitor certain terms.
Like periodically checking Yahoo Groups and Bloglines for keywords related to your area, this one probably ought to be on the "occasional check" calendar for reporters.