Rethinking CRTnet

Davis Foulger
Evolutionary Media
Submitted to CRTnet; January 4, 2004

Now that we are back from the latest hiatus, I would like to suggest that it is time to rethink CRTnet with regard to three issues: its purpose and relationship to the field, its editorial policy and management, and the minimization of hiatus.

As to the first, I like to think that the primary purpose of CRTnet is to enable conversations and make connections within the field of communication. The continuously recurring sections of CRTnet, including 'Announcements and Queries', 'Conferences (Calls for Papers...)', 'Of Interest' and 'Position Announcements', find a primary contribution in fostering connections. Transient sections like the recent 'Theory and Data', 'Data Mining', 'FTAA Protests', and the recurring 'Media Bias' section serve the former. I think CRTnet does very well in the 'fostering connections' department. It frequently comes off the rails, however, when it is enabling conversations, most often because its unstated editorial policy allows posts that contain personal attacks.

I think that there ought to be more and more civilized conversation on CRTnet, and suggest that the only way that will happen is if we formalize a minimal editorial policy (much as our journals do) and change the way in which posts are moderated (bringing us to the second subject matter).

While I think the national office is doing a great job in running CRTnet, I would like to see its editorial management shifted to something closer to the model of our journals, with an editorial board composed of scholar moderators. I'm not advocating a formal "peer review" model in the sense journals and divisions review papers. The issue isn't how good a post is. I am advocating that we have a panel of scholars who use an editorial policy to decide what posts are distributed. Because the bias of CRTnet should be to encourage posts and rapid interaction, I suggest that only one member (any member) of the editorial panel be allowed to approve posts, and that an override of any rejection require the approval of only two members of the panel. Rejected posts would be returned to the submitter with a minimal statement of why the post was rejected such that it can be revised and resubmitted.

The idea is not to block the continuous flow of discussion and connection making so much as to allow a panel of peers to decide, based on a published editorial policy, to reject a post. At this point I would suggest that two points of editorial policy that would prompt such rejection:

1. that the post does not contribute to making connections or fostering conversation within the field of communication
2. the post contains a personal attack (attacking ideas is just fine)

There may be other good reasons to exclude posts. If there are, I'm sure that they will be suggested and discussed over time.

The best reason for converting to a distributed editorial review board, however, is 'hiatus'. I don't know how others feel, but I actually have more time for CRTnet during the breaks between semesters, and I'm always disappointed to have it disappear just when I'm best equipped to participate in the conversation. A distributed panel of editors would make it much easier to keep CRTnet going during these breaks, and I'd like to see that happen.