Candidates tracked in online discourse
Welcome to the new political culture of the information age. Welcome to the days of the digital campaign trail, e-mudslinging and daily debate blogs.
This election year has seen unprecedented use of the Internet by candidates and political insiders to engage with voters. Candidates running for office at every level have taken advantage of the increasing popularity of blogging, and as the Nov. 7 election nears, political blogs have captured the spotlight as a new forum of discourse and debate.
“Blogging is a popular phenomenon because it’s easy, accessible and the Internet is affordable for most people,” said Trevor Martin, a senior marketing and media studies major. “No longer do people have to rely on getting published on the op-ed page of a newspaper or getting a call into a radio show to voice their opinions. They can just get online and type a blog at a pretty low cost.”
There has been an ongoing debate in recent times among those in journalism as to whether or not blogs can be considered a valid source of media because bloggers are not held to same standards of objectivity, accuracy and fair reporting as professional journalists. Bloggers have been accused of “ranting,” being one sided, or – as Shawn Mitchell, a blogger for ToTheRight.org put it – “grimly validating their every prophecy of doom as quickly and harshly as they can.”
“Blogs serve a different function than that of traditional news sources,” said Andrew Calabrese, a professor in the journalism school. “Just because a blogger doesn’t have a journalism degree does not make them a ‘quack.’ And there is plenty of opinion, skewed reporting and half-truths in newspapers and on television. It would be unwise to dismiss blogging as a medium.”
Brian Davidson, the republican candidate for CU regent-at-large, has come under fire recently for his controversial comments on concealed weapons. When asked by the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition if he supports laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms on or near public school grounds by those holding a permit, Davidson’s reply was no.
“A person with a permit should be allowed to carry their weapon essentially without regard to place or situation,” Davidson said.
His opponent, democrat Steve Ludwig, posted a response to the comments on his blog, calling Davidson’s stance “completely irresponsible and out of touch with the mainstream of Colorado.”
The attention the blog received was so great that Davidson released a statement the same day that Ludwig’s blog was posted, Sept. 5, in an attempt to clarify his comments.
“I had no intention of supporting students and faculty members to bring firearms onto the campus,” Davidson said. “I fully support the university’s policy to prohibit these weapons on campus.”
Ludwig’s blog has since been reposted on the blog sites SquareState.net, ColoradoConfidential.com and MuckrackingMoms.com, where the public has debated over the issue.
“Unfortunately, I see what appears to be severe na’vety on the part of many democrats other than just firearms issues,” said Jack Murphy, in his post to Ludwig’s Web site. “I will have to make some tough decisions in the voting booth this year.”
“Political candidates keep blogs to present their views without mediation,” Calabrese said. “It takes away the opportunity for other groups to spin the message in a way the candidate deems ‘unfair.'”
This may be the reason that several independent political blog sites have sprung up. For Colorado politics, one site in particular, ColoradoPols.com, is gaining increasing influence.
The site keeps up-to-date polls on each candidate running for office, as well as breaking political news and on-going discussion threads on current issues. The site has attracted attention from the likes of John Marshall, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s campaign coordinator, and republican state Sen. Nancy Spence, both of whom claim to check the site regularly.
Despite its infancy as a new medium of communication, the explosion of blogs, the number of bloggers and the discussions taking place through blogs ensure that the phenomenon will not soon die out.
“Blogging definitely won’t stagnate,” Martin said. “Through the history of communication, you’ll see that, with each innovation, there was an increase in citizen participation and active discussion, which is necessary.”
“I can think of more harmful past times than blogging on the Internet,” said Calabrese. “It loosens up control over the public sphere, and why shouldn’t people be able to get their word out?”