Obama-McCain new media battle provides lessons for S.C. operatives

Originally uploaded by johnvierdsen

On Politico today, Jonathan Martin nails what’s an extremely interesting and increasingly valuable new media resource for campaigns and causes.

The gist is this – the liberal Internet presence is driving the news cycle because it’s actively running down and generating new content. This is the old-style journalism, the journalism of early America: straight-up, unapologetic facts with a bias.

Deploying writers with backgrounds grounded in journalism rather than politics, The Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo, in particular, have already become a persistent problem for McCain’s campaign, regularly posting negative opposition research and embarrassing videos in addition to advancing damaging story lines against the GOP nominee.
There is simply no equivalent on the right to these two liberal-leaning websites.
The challenge these sites present have become so apparent that McCain was forced to hire his own in-house blogger to ensure dissemination of a steady stream of anti-Barack Obama material, much of it culled from the campaign’s extensive research file.
Michael Goldfarb, a former reporter at the Weekly Standard, almost exclusively uses his blog on McCain’s website to target the Democratic nominee in the hopes mainstream reporters will link to or pick up the oppo he’s posting.
To be sure, neither of the two liberal-leaning sites — referred to online as TPM and HuffPo — have yet to break the next Watergate story this campaign.
But every day, there comes a steady drip.

Here, we see a chance for campaigns and causes, particularly the research area, to go professional. The same went for PR in the ’90s. For too long, in both, hacks have held positions that should have gone to people who were specifically trained for the job. Which would you rather have – someone who is well-versed in PR and knows how to work with journalists, or someone whose last job was doing GOTV?

OK, apply that to research and driving the news cycle. Hence, you put reporters out there generating content for your guy or a slate of candidates, and you’re going to start getting the coverage you want. After all, your guy already broke the story, which makes it easier for the mainstream outlets to build upon it and put it out there.

This is the difference between being passive and active. In the new way, you’re getting things done and creating something new. In the old way, you were just sending up a flack to write 700 words on why your opponent is a bag of the douche variety. The column will fade away, but the story can grow legs.

It also helps because once you set up this organization (a news site/blog/print), you’ve got a go-to source for your oppo and a team of trained researchers who not only know how to dig things up, but how to put it into compelling copy.

It ranges from the amusing (reporting that McCain’s campaign lifted recipes from the Food Network while he’s giving a major economic speech) to the strategic (popping up research on McCain’s opposition to a bill that included wind energy incentives when he’s about to give a speech at a turbine facility) to the eyebrow-raising (disclosing that Mitt Romney said at a private meeting that he would not likely appoint a Muslim Cabinet member).

In some cases, the stories incrementally move the anti-McCain message forward (by flagging an off-message Iraq statement by a McCain surrogate, for example). In others, the reporting scores broadside hits that inflict notable damage (such as posting controversial audio of the Rev. John Hagee that would prompt McCain to finally renounce the pastor).

While HuffPo and TPM want to go more legit in their reporting, the template can be used for a more political version. You get a few donors involved, decide the scope and intent, hire reporters you can trust and get on the ball.

This is the next step, and is possible right here in South Carolina. It just takes the person with the right set to put it all together.

GOP losing the new-media war [Politico]


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