Dan Gillmor offers some good suggestions as to how newspapers can improve their editorial pages by building conversation around their communities:
• Editorial page weblogs. Discuss upcoming topics among the staff and welcome reader comments.
• Offer user-moderated posting and comment systems. Moderation by the newspapers -- that is, removing obscene or illegal postings or trolls -- will be necessary.
• Use comments and community postings as letters to the editor. Better, publish greatest-hits threads of the best conversations, not isolated letters referring back to stories and editorials that no one remembers clearly. Provide context.
• Publish the best reader-written essays in the paper. Let readers decide which are best. (Sometimes you will disagree with the readers and have a good reason for not publishing a certain piece; explain why you made that decision.)
• Over time, think audio and video for commentaries.
• To ensure that people in poorer neighborhoods can be part of this conversation, buy some computers and install them in community centers, churches and other places where people gather. Encourage the people who'll take care of them to ensure that the computers are used only for this community purpose, not for random surfing.