This class has been a terrific journey that began with the 1948 presidential election and has ended with the possibility of creating a new political landscape.

Here are some of the things I learned in this class.

·         Citizen journalism is balancing the perception people have of politicians. In the past, the media reported what they wanted the audience to believe. However, today, citizens are armed with words and images just like the media and are putting forth their perception of the information gathered.



The beauty of citizen journalist is they are connected to the community. Tocci (as cited in Sosnik, Dowd, & Fournier) said that tech-driven citizens journalists . . . are active members of a community, personally invested in how their virtual neighborhood is affected by a corporation or its products” (p. 176). In this case, of course, the corporation is the politician. Citizen journalists are real people freely sharing their ideas and are not worried about generating revenue.

·         The power of politics is in the ability to create a group of people that are passionate about creating a learning community with a common goal. Teachout & Streeter wrote, “What made the Dean campaign different was that all the trial-and-error passion was poured into the goal of winning over and exciting the base” (p. 215). There is an enthusiasm when a community learns together, and the Dean campaign was the model.

·         Citizen journalism and the strength of community will and has changed the way democracy works. Joe Trippi states, “The democratic movement I’m talking about empowers consumers as well as citizens” (p. 207). This empowerment coupled with accountability could inspire the next generation to believe and dream.


Just when you think the RNC might go by the wayside like the 8-track player, they seem to resurrect themselves from the graveyard. “On Thursday they launched an innovative online tool that enables supporters to raise tiny amounts of money for the committee with each internet search query that they send through Yahoo’s search engine,” according to Wired.

Additionally, this new toolbar will “incorporate an RSS feed as well as scrolling news, breaking alerts and two-way communication with supporters,” according to John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist. And if that is not enough for you, the new tool bar will be able to track your donations in real time, and you will be able to watch as your donations grow.

It seems like the GOP will be able to gather a tremendous amount of data about a supporter from this tool bar.

In the past, the important data politicians gathered was where and how we live. Yet, now, it might be more important to know what we search for on the internet. This is a brilliant plan: Get fundraising dollars and learn about your supporters search habits.

However, there is a real danger here. The danger is losing the empowerment that the internet has given to normal citizens. This empowerment has renewed political participation and enthusiasm.

All of this might be lost if politicians use the internet to treat people like pocketbooks and statistics. Joe Trippi reminds us there was a backlash “against fifty years of broadcast politics, which treated people as if they were nothing more than fund-raising targets and points on a poll” (p. 104).

It is amazing that this toolbar can generate campaign dollars without a supporter entering their credit card number. However, the GOP should be cautious about how it will use this avenue in fund-raising and micro-targeting. Trippi argues that the measure of great companies and politicians will be the way they build great communities (p. 219).

In conclusion, the GOP has found a new way to leverage technology to raise funds and collect data. However, they should continually ask: Are we building a community where our supporters feel heard and valued?

This week after combing through technology blogs, I decided I want to blog about someone who is attempting to empowering citizens and build communities. Tripp said, “We’re citizens again. We’re looking for companies, politicians, and institutions that will build the best communities” (p. 210).

The most compelling use of technology to build community and empower citizens was done by Texas Rep. John Culberson. Culberson held an e Town Hall. He used ustream.tv to answer questions from his constituents from his Washington D.C. office. In this town hall, he used his web camera to present himself. He used twitter, phone, email, and his website to gather question. In the first 1:30 of the video, there is a very funny slip-up and reaction to the slip-up from a person in the background—it is worth watching, especially if you are a twitter fan. See video here.

I understand this in idea is novel and there are many lesson to learn from this format.

The things I see that need to be done:

1.      Learn to take control of the phone caller. There needs to be some sort of control, so they will not ramble.

2.      The blue light reflection from the screen needs to be neutralized.

3.      The politician or speaker needs to be completely cognizant of their nonverbal behavior (e.g. wiping or squeezing your nose).

4.      Very careful about the people in the background.

I commend Rep. Culberson for engaging the citizens in this sort of dialogue, and there are many lessons to still learn from this type of format.

The Internet tools are creating an empowering dialogue with citizens. This dialogue not only benefits the citizens, it also benefits the politician. Politicians are able to disseminate their message without relying on the interpretation of the press. Additionally, this format works well to get information out to the media and bloggers simultaneously. It will be an interesting tool to follow.

Predicting someone’s behavior has become essential for political strategist and politicians. It seems if you do not have a file on each person and how to reach them then you are incompetent.  This file usually contains past voting history and lifestyle choices, also known as Life Targeting.  Sosnik, Dowd, and Fournier said, “Failing to take advantage of lifestyle data available . . . borders on political malpractice (p. 38).

With this lifestyle data political strategist can pretty much predict your vote. If you are like me, you might feel like you are losing your privacy. Well, the data mining is not over.  Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) submitted this provision that, “essentially would have required that various bits of credit card information and transaction activity be reported to the government so that they could use it to generate information.” Of course, this technology is already in use. It just seems that putting it in a provision as a legal action is giving too much power to the government.

So, the question is: At what point do Americans ask for their credit card information to remain private and confidential.

I know I would like it to remain confidential. It is not because I am paranoid. I would just like to hear politicians speak authentically about their dreams and plans they have for America. I would like to see a leader. Instead, I fear that this micro-targeting will just empower poor leaders that just happen to have good political strategists.

Sometime in the mid-1990’s my husband and I made a financial decision: We would use our credit card for all our purchases, so we can get thousands of frequent flyer miles. We knew by doing this we were creating a significant trail of data on our family, but the incentive of free flights trumped our fears.

Now, ten or so years later, I am realized that this information was used to microtarget our family in the political world. In the book Applebees’s America (2006) the authors states that the Bush team purchased consumer credit card data. From this data the Bush team knew if people drank wine, skied, or purchased cat food, etc.  

Sosnik, Dowd, and Fournier call this “Life Targeting—because the strategy tracks people based on their lifestyles” (p. 3). Armed with this information the Bush campaign in Michigan used this information to do extensive analysis on each individual. This in turn helped them frame a voter’s positions on hot-button (Sosnik, Dowd, & Fournier, 2006, p. 38).  They used this information to tailor their message to each group of people.

Looking back now, I understand the constant letters we received from the Bush campaign were the result of this micro-targeting.  These letters did seem to speak right to the heart of my core values—integrity and honor.  Cillizza wrote, “Messages are targeted to each individual segment; as a result, the issues you hear about also happen to be the ones you are most interested in.”

Knowing that politicians expertly frame their message to certain groups of people leaves me wondering: Is this process really a part of democracy or is this manipulation an avenue towards repression?

In the past, I use to complain, “A trip to the grocery store cost $50, and gas in the SUV $38.” However, today, the increase in prices has put a small dent in our family budget, because a grocery store trip cost $100 and gas for the SUV $75. These prices increase have shifted my perspective of our family economic status. I, now, no longer feel like we are close to upper middle class; instead, I perceive our economic status sliding to middle class.

This shift in economic perspective is something McCain should really become aware of. In the following video the panel discusses the idea that the Republican Party needs to become the party of Sam’s Club instead of the Country Club.

McCain needs to reach out and understand that the core segment of Americans in the past couple of months have felt a shift in economic status. This shift could alienate a large portion of the Republican Party, the slipping upper middle class.

People do vote according to their lifestyle choices. Sosnick, Dowd, and Fournier said, “People’s foremost priority is deciding where and how they’ll live and work; and those lifestyle choices are the predicate for every other decision people make—including how they shop, worship, and vote” (p. 38).

If McCain wants to gain the attention of the middle class, he should create a narrative of economic policy that understands families, like mine, are uncertain about their economic future. This economic uncertainty influences my lifestyle choice and in turn influences my vote.

Reporting is pretty simple gather facts that answer the age-old questions of Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Then, present that information to the audience—and presto—you have journalism.  Kotecki, prior to joining Politico, answered all of those questions in his dorm room.

For example, when Kotecki interviewed Ron Paul in his dorm room about his political platform during the presidential nomination process in order to inform and create a dialogue with his audience. He did all of this using a video camera and sent his message via YouTube.

This does not seem much different from Chris Matthews sitting in a small staged area interviewing Mike Huckabee about his political platform during the presidential nomination process in order to inform his audience. All of this was recorded using a television camera and sent via the television.

One difference between network reporting and blog reporting is one is focused on revenue and the other is not—for the most part. Network reporting is focused on making a ROI when they cover an event or issue. Crouse (2003) states, “The networks came to Miami [political conventions] because it was good for business” (P. 155). Whereas bloggers would attend a convention to gather information in order to create a dialogue with their fans.

One similarity is network media and bloggers both want to increase viewership. They both do this by trying to present unique and timely information first.

How the world views information is changing. America has endured this change when the television became the medium of choice over radio, and now, we are experience a shift from television to the internet. Invariably, this change will shift the perception of what journalism is.

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