Posts Tagged ‘Online Media’

RR: Government Twittering

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Last week I attended a conference hosted by the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet in Washington DC dealing with online politics and new technology tools for campaigns, public affairs, and governing.

The online gurus for the Obama Campaign, the McCain Campaign, Bush-Cheney 04, elected officials, the RNC, the DNC, bloggers, and reporters got together to discuss innovations and “what’s next.”  I was impressed with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Here is an excerpt from my column:

Bowen said the challenge for new technology yesterday was to make government transparent and open to the public. Those needs remain, but the challenge today is to make government interactive: able to reach people in real time and receive input from citizens.

She said agencies and state employees historically view government information as secret or proprietary and changing that attitude is necessary for openness. Another obstacle is the internal infrastructure of state government. The legacy of tools and methods used by independent departments are often incompatible because government just “made it up as we were going along.” The difficulties in integrating these disparate networks creates an impediment to openness.

Shifting attitudes and integrating networks aside, Bowen employs new media technologies to stay in contact and get feedback from citizens. Unlike some elected officials, she herself manages her Facebook and Twitter accounts, although she says her frequent posts and tweets “drives my communications department to drink” because “you hate to be the biggest leak in your own office.”

She refers constituent services questions from these social networks to her staff. One Facebook message she received was a tip regarding election fraud. She dispatched an investigator and that tip led to an arrest.

Her office is considering utilizing Wikis to receive input from citizens on regulatory or rule making procedures. She is not afraid to try new technology, even if it fails, “We’ll try them all. Some of them probably won’t work.”

She says California plans to use Twitter during the next election to reach the 24,000-plus polling stations across the state simultaneously. As long as at least one person at each station has a portable communication device, she’ll be able to let everyone know about late breaking changes and answer common questions in real time.

Bowen said technology can cut costs for government. On election night, the servers for California’s Secretary of State must be prepared for millions of hits and requests for information during a very short amount of time. But the rest of the year, that is excess and costly infrastructure. Bowen is looking to move to a “cloud” infrastructure - distributing the computer resources to other servers over the Internet.

I also wrote briefly about how Mississippi state government uses technology to share public information with its citizens.  Here is some of it, tongue in cheek.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation recently announced it will be using Twitter to inform drivers of traffic concerns, specifically hurricane traffic. With specific twitters for I-55, I-59, US-49, US-98, I-10, and I-20 MDOT will be able to advise those at home making travel plans or drivers on the road who enable their mobile Twitter feed.

Presumably, these would not be teenage drivers, as the Mississippi legislature outlawed teenage texting while driving. For a teenager, reading that mobile Tweet from MDOT could cost a $500 ticket. The same goes for Amber Alerts issued via text and Tweets. But you know the difficulties kids have these days multitasking new technology and old technology (a car). They’re not nearly as adept as us old folks who may still text, Tweet and drive legally.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal online: Perry / Government Twittering

The need for journalists in a digital world

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Here are two recent columns on the value of professional reporters - journalists - in reporting the news. Charlie Mitchell says “the world needs reporters” who “do yeoman-like work.” He says they

sit through the trials. They go to the city council and school board meetings. They listen to the athletes and coaches and to the campaign speeches. They pore over the public records, interview the sheriff, spend hours on the phone tracking down a state trooper for information on a wreck. They go to the ribbon-cuttings and press conferences. They read more bills than most legislators.  And then they relate their findings in a straightforward manner.

Mitchell predicts newspapers “especially smaller, community newspapers - will be around for quite a while.” (More on this subject at the Mississippi Press Association blog, InkBlots.)

Paul Mulshine, an opinion columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal titled “All I  Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper: Bloggers are no replacement for real journalists.” (Hat Tip: Jackson Jambalaya: Blogs v. Journalism). Mushine also writes about the need for serious and trained journalism and the challenges newspapers face with new media.

The problem is that printing a hard copy of a publication packed with solid, interesting reporting isn’t a guarantee of economic success in the age of instant news. Blogger Glenn Reynolds of “Instapundit” fame seems to be pleased at this. In his book, “An Army of Davids,” Mr. Reynolds heralds an era in which “[m]illions of Americans who were in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff.”

No, they can’t. Millions of American can’t even pronounce “pundit,” or spell it for that matter. On the Internet and on the other form of “alternative media,” talk radio, a disliked pundit has roughly a 50-50 chance of being derided as a “pundint,” if my eyes and ears are any indication.

The type of person who can’t even keep track of the number of times the letter “N” appears in a two-syllable word is not the type of person who is going to offer great insight into complex issues….

The common thread here, whether the subject is foreign, national or local, is that the writer in question is performing a valuable task for the reader — one that no sane man would perform for free. He is assembling what in the business world is termed the “executive summary.” Anyone can duplicate a long and tedious report. And anyone can highlight one passage from that report and either praise or denounce it. But it takes both talent and willpower to analyze the report in its entirety and put it in a context comprehensible to the casual reader.

This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren’t doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they’re under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.

So if you want a car or a job, go to the Internet. But don’t expect that Web site to hire somebody to sit through town-council meetings and explain to you why your taxes will be going up. Soon, newspapers won’t be able to do it either.

RR: The first decade of online politics in Mississippi

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

This week I write in Reasonably Right about milestones in the first decade of Mississippi online politics.  Here are some excerpts:

In early 1998, Richard Bishop was interning at the Mississippi Republican Party, working on the United Republican Fund, a monthly giving mechanism that funds the party’s operations. “I had been learning HTML and building web pages for about six months. I thought if people could get an e-mail and sign-up for the URF online, it would be easier to increase response. So I got permission from Chairman Mike Retzer to register the domain, and put up news about the party, upcoming events, how to e-mail the staff.” was the first party web site in Mississippi.

That year Bishop also worked on State Auditor Phil Bryant’s campaign web page, the first statewide official to have a web presence apart from a government site.

Brad Morris, now chief-of-staff to First District Congressman Travis Childers, produced an early landmark in 1998 by going live with, the online version of his political newsletter that featured breaking news and a bulletin board for posting political gossip.

By 1999, every credible statewide candidate was online. A candidate in the Republican Primary for governor, Dan Gibson first provided a method to collect secure online campaign contributions by credit card (Bishop designed Gibson’s site as well). Nick Walters‘ campaign for Secretary of State combined his web site with campaign e-mails about his schedule and fundraising, an innovation at the time.

In 2000, a computer programmer named Lewis Napper from Jackson ran as a Libertarian against Senator Trent Lott. In 1993, Napper, incensed at a radio speech by Hillary Clinton, sat down at his keyboard and hammered out “The Bill of No Rights.” He e-mailed it to a few friends and it grew to an Internet legend, one of the early widespread Internet forwards.

Inspired by the egalitarian democratization of the news by folks like Matt Drudge, I launched in 2001 to provide news links, political rumors, and resources to the Mississippi’s online political consumers. The site continues today, operated by Josh Gregory at Frontier Strategies.

In 2004, Alan Lange started to track the race between Frank Melton and Harvey Johnson for mayor of Jackson. The site morphed into the broader and then migrated to in 2006. “We are probably best known for our coverage of the Dickie Scruggs scandal. We have had millions of page views driven by that story,” Lange said.

In 2007, John Leek launched Cotton Mouth to bring a pro-Democrat, pro-liberal perspective to Mississippi online politics. Jake Cooper, Jeff Walters and others joined Leek as voices from the left during the 2007 and 2008 Mississippi campaigns. Due to internal Democratic politics, Cotton Mouth was passed over as Mississippi’s official blog at the Democratic National Convention, a credential instead given to Casey Ann Hughes and her NatchezMs blog. Cotton Mouth made the trip to Denver and the DNC anyway.

Also from the left comes a project from James Thompson and Sam Hall,, managed by Blue Dot Group. Hall, a former reporter, editor, and Mississippi Democratic Party spokesman, most recently managed Jim Kitchen’s successful campaign for Mississippi Supreme Court. Hall used a campaign blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, video and an opposition attack web site as part of his online strategy.

You can read the full column at the Neshoba County Democrat: Perry/The migration of politics online

WSJ and online media

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Major daily newspapers across the country are reporting declining subscription rates and are cutting staffs as a result of declining advertising revenue. Various theories regarding content, choice, and culture have been offered, but John Fund of the Wall Street Journal recently shared his own view at a conference I attended. He said that free Internet content is killing newspapers. Why subscribe to a newspaper you can read for free online? He notes that when newspapers first began going online, the Wall Street Journal joined the transition, but required online readers to pay a subscription. The WSJ now has 1.1 million online subscribers and is on track to cross the lines with their print subscribers to achieve greater online subscribers than print subscribers in the next 2.5 years. The WSJ has a distinctive voice and unique niche in national newspapers and it goes to show when you are the sole or best provider of content on a topic, consumers will pay for it.

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