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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    [ # ] US presidential candidates learn blogs can bite back
    February 19th, 2007 under Blogs in the News

    WASHINGTON (story link) –  A controversy which has flared over two bloggers working for the campaign of US presidential hopeful John Edwards has highlighted the pitfalls facing candidates as they embrace the Web to reach voters.

    The bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, resigned following outrage over allegedly anti-Catholic rhetoric they had posted on their own blog posts before they joined the Edwards campaign last month.

    The 350,000-strong Catholic League, a conservative religious group, had demanded that Edwards fire the two women and threatened to unleash a public relations blitz against his campaign.

    Marcotte and McEwan said though Edwards, a Democrat, did not ask them to step down, they had decided to resign to spare his campaign any further undue criticism.

    Political commentators and experts said the incident illustrates the treacherous terrain facing candidates as they redefine their political strategies to reach younger and tech-savvy voters.

    “This probably is the year we learn and write new rules about how to integrate all of these new interactive instant media technology such as blogs, Facebook, or YouTube into campaigns and elections,” David Perlmutter, a professor and associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Kansas school of journalism, said.

    “Right now, a lot of people are experimenting and speculating and really just making stuff up as they go along but we are going to learn some lessons … because nobody has written the rule book yet,” added Perlmutter, author of Blogwars: The New Political Battleground.

    He said the Edwards flap will likely prompt campaign managers to be more aggressive in sifting through bloggers’ backgrounds to dig up anything that might be fodder for controversy.

    “Everybody who is running for everything is going to ask their campaign manager: ‘Hey, you checked these guys out, right?’” he said.

    The incident will also force politicians to come to terms with the pitfalls involved in recruiting veteran bloggers, whose past off-the-cuff, uncensored remarks on the blogosphere can come back to haunt them in the real world of politics.

    “It is pretty clear that we are still trying to work out a basic set of rules and norms about how bloggers intersect with the political and media world,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

    “For a long time in America, the wall between being an independent reporter and being a commentator and an activist has been pretty clear,” he added. “But it is not so clear in the age of blogging.”

    In the case of Marcotte and McEwan, the comments that landed both in hot water were made before they were hired by the Edwards campaign in January.

    Marcotte on her Pandagon site had criticized the church’s opposition to birth control, which she said forces women “to bear more tithing Catholics.”

    McEwan for her part had referred to President George W. Bush’s “wingnut Christofacist base” on the Shakespeare’s Sister blog.

    The blog entries and other comments they had posted earned them the wrath of Catholic League president William Donohue, who described them as “anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots.”

    Rainie said the episode is unlikely to muzzle bloggers but will serve as a cautionary tale to those jumping into the political arena that all is fair game.

    “So many relationships, even benign relationships, can be exploited under the wrong circumstances, or with innuendo, winks, and nods,” he said.

    “And everybody needs to be more careful and more transparent about these things in an environment where so much of people’s backgrounds can now by Googled.”

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    The Dole Institute of Politics is a bipartisan facility. Our mission; to encourage political and civic involvement, especially among young people; to encourage civil discussion on important issues; to emphasize that politics is an honorable profession; and to provide opportunities for all to interact with political leaders, practitioners and writers.
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    A Summary of the 2006 Blogger-Reader Survey

    Fall 2006 Blogger/Reader Survey Details and Research Reports
    In December of 2006 Dr. Dhavan Shah of the University of Wisconsin and his “Blogclub” of graduate students and Dr. David D. Perlmutterof the University of Kansas conducted a survey of major political blogs and their readers. The project was partially sponsored by a grant from the Knight/Carnegie Foundation’s Future of Journalism initiative. The summary of the results are posted here--please fully cite us if you refer to the findings.

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