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Wisconsin Paper Lets Readers Help Pick News

The editors of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison are letting readers choose the news... part of it, anyway.

In an experiment officially begun this week, readers can go to the Web to choose one of five stories. The next day, the story with the most votes shows up on the front page.

Editor Ellen Foley says she and her colleagues have been pleasantly surprised to see the results. Instead of lighter fare, for instance, readers chose the triumph of Hamas in Palestinian elections -- and what that will mean for Palestinian-Israeli relations -- as their top choice.

Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based training organization for professional journalists, says she's aware some editors may scorn the experiment. But McBride thinks it's an important step, which "allows the newsroom to hear from a wider group of people."

Foley says readers like the experiment, and because of that, it's likely her editors will continue to use help from readers in picking a front-page story.

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Karen Grigsby Bates is the Senior Correspondent for Code Switch, a podcast that reports on race and ethnicity. A veteran NPR reporter, Bates covered race for the network for several years before becoming a founding member of the Code Switch team. She is especially interested in stories about the hidden history of race in America—and in the intersection of race and culture. She oversees much of Code Switch's coverage of books by and about people of color, as well as issues of race in the publishing industry. Bates is the co-author of a best-selling etiquette book (Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times) and two mystery novels; she is also a contributor to several anthologies of essays. She lives in Los Angeles and reports from NPR West.