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Simple Question does Wonders for NPR Blog

On Tuesday of this week (December 18, 2007) NPR's new morning show The Bryant Park Project did a segment on the local perception of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, and his large and ardent Internet posse came up.  Like many others Bennett Roth of the Houston Chronicle guesses that Ron Paul supporters "are a little bit younger, a little bit more male, and certainly very disaffected."

Instead of letting the story end there, the show's on-line editor Laura Conaway decided to ask, "Who Are Ron Paul's Supporters?"  Unsurprisingly, Paul activists have flocked to the post to leave comments — 3,189 as of this posting.  However, not all of the supporters claim (hopefully, they're honest) to fit the stereotype that many of us think of this ardent group.

One is a "47 year[s] old, male, married, two children and a computer programmer. Never involved in politics until someone introduced [him] to Rep. Ron Paul's message."

Another is a "Fifty-something single female, employed in the arts."

Another respondent is a "54-year-old divorced woman… [and] very concerned about the decline of the dollar and inflation."

While another person is a "29 year old woman and married" who works as a "self-employed Independent Sales Trainer, writer and stay-at-home mom."

One commenter states, "I'm an NPR listener and one of the 'secular progressives' so feared by the Fox news crowd."

Granted, many of the respondents are in their 20s or 30s, male, and work in a technical field, but not all.  Hopefully, The Bryant Park Project will interview of some the respondents who don't fit the stereotypical Ron Paul supporter to ask them why they support him.

When I showed this to my friend Kevin Anderson, who is the Blogs Editor for The Guardian in the UK, he was impressed by the response to this simple blog post since he could see how it can add to the greater Ron Paul story.

"I have often said to our journalists that only a fraction of our audience will respond to [a] traditional article, and often those responses won't add much to the story," Kevin e-mailed me today, "However, by guiding the discussion with a simple question or some framing of the debate or issue, I think participation not only increases but it's also broader and more diverse."

His remarks confirmed what I was thinking.  Not only do simple questions help participation on blogs, but they can have significant impact on the journalistic value of blogging.

Update: Due to the "Paul-valanche" of comments, The Bryant Park Project has turned off comments on the post.