At the bottom of The Union (hard copy) this week runs a teaser for their online poll, saying
"Would you support recalling California Gov. Gray Davis? Vote on www.theunion.com!"
So your response to it might be, nice. They are encouraging public participation in the news making process. Community involvement good, a step in right direction. Good paper.
There's a problem though. Online polls are, to quote a local unnamed highly-placed source, "totally unscientific", and are regularly targeted for manipulation by political groups. Unfortunately, since there are no referees, the group that cheats (or the one that cheats the most) will win the appearance of popular support for its cause. To put it baldly, in an attempt to drum up website traffic The Union is peddling Influence to the sleaziest faction. In carelessly run polls as in soup pans, the scum rises to the top.
Not so good for a community newspaper.
And, Union-ites, if your response is "everybody knows our online poll is meaningless in gauging popular opinion", then you're being misleading in calling it a poll--that's like calling a paid advertisement "news". Call it a Pretend Poll and you won't risk misleading your more trusting readers.
For an example of a newspaper enlightening its readers, see the San Francisco Chronicle's injection of fact into reporting crowd estimates. I understand that The Union is planning to follow suit (with fact-based reporting - ed.), which if it pans out is excellent news.