Launch Pad: Remapping Debate

One down, we hope many more to go

CJR’s “Launch Pad” feature invites new media publishers to blog about their experiences on the news frontier. Craig Gurian’s previous posts on preparing to launch his new site can be found here.

We are pretty happy here at Remapping Debate: the goal was to launch by 12:00 noon on Tuesday, October 12th; we managed to go live at 10:00 a.m., two hours early. There were, of course, a few absurd little wrinkles as we came down to the wire. On Monday morning, we found that the very basic “block quote” feature—displaying just fine in most browsers—was not working at all on Internet Explorer.

Once that was resolved in the afternoon, all seemed ready to go until late in the evening, when it turned out that the “cron” function—fundamental to updating our content—was misbehaving. That did cause some agita.

In the end, though, I did get to go to bed (at about 2:00 a.m.) with this last of the glitches resolved. Ultimately, the launch went remarkably smoothly, thanks not only to the focus and dedication of our staff, but also to the care and attention of our web design team at Free Range Studios and our development team at Agentic Communications.

Our first edition was representative in many respects. We featured original reporting: a piece on how the Federal Reserve’s anti-inflation reflex has kept it from embracing the policy prescriptions that its own analysis suggests; and another looking at the unexplored macroeconomic consequences of less discretionary spending from Boomer retirees if state and local governments extend cuts in defined benefits plans from the private sector to the public sector.

We also inaugurated a new kind of feature called Story Repair. Rather than simply critique reporting that has appeared in a major news outlet, we take the story in for repairs and redo it (the source material for the first Story Repair came from Politico). And we did also run my commentary discussing why warning signs about the flaws in the Bloomberg administration’s student testing regime did not reverberate more with the public and the press, and why it is so important to go beyond stale “testing is good” versus “testing is bad” arguments. We will be rolling out additional features as we move towards Launch II on January 11th.

With all of one edition under our collective belt, one of the difficult things to explain to readers and prospective readers is that the content was representative not for the specific subjects covered (we are not seeking to establish a limited number of topic-related beats, my references to two economics stories notwithstanding), but rather for the topic-independent themes that were and will continue to be addressed. It is our intention to rove widely across the domestic public policy landscape because one finds in each and all of those topical areas recurring assumptions that both limit the scope of debate and limit the ability of the public to recognize when, where, by whom, and for whom decisions are being made.

We do have one early-days invitation to extend most earnestly to readers and prospective readers. We started with the idea, as discussed last week, that the site needed to be a place that allowed for calmness and reflection. As part of implementing that decision, we opted against instant interactivity on the site itself, preferring that readers who want to make their voices heard on the site write in (via a web form) with old-fashioned letters to the editor (off-site, Facebook and Twitter are alternate means of feedback and conversation). We do very much want to encourage the submission of letters. Our door is open to all points of view; letters setting forth evidence and analysis that illuminate a debate are especially welcome. Letters should be as short as they can be and as long as they need to be.

Last thoughts on our start up next week; then time to turn Launch Pad over to another brave or foolhardy soul with a new venture.

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Craig Gurian is the editor of Remapping Debate. He can be reached at