Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Can bloggers be journalists? PR pros think so.

Remember the recent dust-up over the bloggers hired by the John Edwards campaign? In Salon.com, blogger Lindsay Beyerstein explains "Why I refused to blog for Edwards."

The upshot? Her gut feeling was that any liberal blogger who joined the Edwards campaign would face a full-bore attack by right-wing bloggers and conservative groups...and she didn't want to become that kind of target.

And that's exactly what came to pass after Amanda Marcotte, a well-known feminist blogger, joined the Edwards campaign. Right-wing bloggers combed through her Pandagon blog and attacked some of her more provocative posts. Others joined in, and soon it was pig-pile time. Marcotte eventually resigned.

A better model for political blogging, Beyerstein said, is the 2006 Jim Webb Senate campaign, which put two bloggers on its payroll. These bloggers, Josh Chernila and Lowell Feld from Raising Kaine, are the guys who captured the "macaca" moment...and knew what to do with it. Beyerstein explains:

When Webb's videographer captured George Allen's "'macaca' moment"...all the campaign had to do was upload the video to YouTube and send out some well-targeted e-mails to bloggers and other supporters and wait.

Supporters forwarded the clip to their friends. Bloggers started posting the video on their sites. The "macaca" clip got more than 600,000 views on YouTube alone and exploded into the mainstream media.
The lesson for progressives, Beyerstein says, "is how effective bloggers can be when they're outside the campaign." She concludes:
"I think the candidates who benefit the most from the netroots are the ones who can inspire bloggers to do their work for free.... Every campaign needs a blog, but the most important part of a candidate's netroots operation is the disciplined political operatives who can quietly build relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. And the bomb-throwing surrogates need to be outside, where they can make full use of their gifts without saddling a campaign with their personal political baggage."
What I find interesting is that while academics and journalists waste time debating whether or not bloggers ever can be "real" journalists, PR professionals have decided. They are dealing with influential bloggers the same way they deal with influential reporters...by sending them information and trying to build relationships.

"Campaigns 'work' bloggers more or less the same way they work the mainstream press," Beyerstein says. "They send out e-mails and press releases. They make phone calls. They make their candidate available for interviews. They invite bloggers to campaign events. They network in person at Drinking Liberally or the YearlyKos convention."

Sounds like dealing with the media to me.

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