Yoosk Enables Public to Probe London Mayoral Candidates Directly
April 15, 2008, Press Dispensary. A website designed to connect people with their political leaders, Yoosk (http://www.yoosk.com), is hosting a citizens interview of candidates in the May 2008 election for London Mayor. All of the front-runners - Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Siân Berry, Lindsey German and Brian Paddick - have agreed to answer questions submitted and voted for by the public.
Already used as a way for the public to quiz presidential candidates in the US, Yoosk's 'crowd-sourcing' approach is a first for the UK: while some broadcasters and other news sites may invite questions from their audience, editors or interviewees ultimately decide which are used. Yoosk allows visitors to the site not only to post questions to the prospective Mayors but also to vote for those they would most like to see answered.
In contrast to the often personality-driven media reporting of election campaigns, the Yoosk interview will give potential voters the chance to quiz candidates on key issues for London. The responses will add a fresh perspective to the election campaign and to the portrayal of the candidates.
Yoosk's co-founder, Tim Hood, explains: "Getting the candidates' agreement to face a barrage of questions directly from the public was tough going at first but they understood that, as well as giving Londoners direct access to the people they are electing, it's a great campaign tool. It's an opportunity to circumvent the stand-off between politicians and the media, and gives a valuable insight into what voters are thinking."
Questions already posted on the site include: "Where do you stand on Gordon Brown's proposal to give police across London powers of stop and search?" and "If you serve two terms as Mayor, it is likely that you will need to take a stand on proposals to build a nuclear power plant in South East England. Would you give backing to one near your city?"
Green Candidate Siân Berry says of her involvement: "Yoosk is perfect for people who want to cut through the spin and get right to what candidates really think. It's the natural home for the thinking voter."
Yoosk plans to roll out its 'DIY Question Time', where the public choose the panel and questions, to all corners of the country. By offering its concept of citizen journalism to local newspapers it aims to make councillors, local MPs and other public figures more accountable to the people they represent.
And Yoosk's reach goes beyond localised politics to issues currently wreaking havoc in the House of Commons. A new feature on the site addresses the issue of the EU Reform Treaty and its effects on democracy in Britain, and invites users to interview leading politicians, including Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Tim Hood adds: "I'm a strong believer in the value of questions. But whilst we have e-petitions and online polls, nothing really forces a politician to engage in dialogue like an interview. And when citizens collaborate and conduct the interviews themselves we'll start to see greater grassroots engagement in politics and more interactive news reporting."
Editors interested in exclusive deals on the content from the London Mayoral interviews, or on partnering with Yoosk, should contact Keith Halstead on 07932 427 168.
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Notes for editors
Yoosk was launched in April 2007 by Tim Hood and Keith Halstead. It invites the public to submit questions for high profile public figures, aiming to pioneer a collaborative news process with established news sites.
Yoosk is run by three full-time staff, working from London, the Midlands and Vietnam, where the site's developers are based.
US site 10questions (http://www.10questions.com/) was launched in October 2007 and worked with media partners to persuade US presidential primary candidates to answer the public's questions.
For further information, please contact:
Keith Halstead, Yoosk
Tel: 07932 427 168