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In the robo-call scandal, you're an important part of the story

Michael Cole, photographed at his Toronto home on Feb. 29, 2012, received a late-night automated phone call on election day. 'My wife and I were both very annoyed,' he told The Globe.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Every day new allegations surface in the so-called robo-call scandal involving Canadians who say they received calls meant to discourage them from voting in last year's federal election.

An important component of the robo-calls story is that many Canadians in several ridings were affected. Elections Canada has received more than 30,000 complaints, especially since the story resurfaced last month.

We wanted to hear your stories. For our callout, we requested contact information and personal stories from people who had received the calls. We've gotten nearly 200 responses, many containing interesting accounts. About 20 per cent of those who contacted us live in Guelph, Ont. – the centre of the allegations so far.

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Last week, reporter Tamara Baluja began to follow up. Her story contained interviews with readers who had reached out to us, including Stephen White, 34, from the Eastern Ontario riding of Northumberland–Quinte West.

As Ms. Baluja writes, Mr. White had received a late-night call before the election that annoyed him so much he chose not to vote for the Liberals. It was last week that he started having second thoughts.

"As stated earlier, I immediately decided to not vote for the Liberal candidate who at the time was a strong contender for my vote," Mr. White wrote in his submission to us. "It wasn't until I read the G&M today that something just clicked about that call. I told my wife and she was dumbfounded."

Ms. Baluja and I compiled more responses – all of which had been vetted – and additional information, and graphed it on to a map of Canada. The ridings we know were affected are highlighted, with darker ridings denoting closer vote margins. (I decided that colour scheme would be more effective for this story because only the close elections could be open to a judicial review.)

We've done lots of crowdsourcing before. In a case like this, reading through the responses informs our journalists and gives them ready access to people affected by robo-calls as new allegations surface. It creates a journalistic feedback loop – reporters introduce a story to the public conversation, Canadians talk about it and have their input, which drives more stories. Both The Globe's journalists and our readers are integral to the process.

Some institutions call this kind of practice open journalism. For The Globe, it's just part of how we inform you and keep the conversation going.

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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