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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Competition ahead?

The local punditocracy (mainstream version) is apparently feeling some heat while the rest of us shiver in the January chill.

Deval Patrick's plan for a weekly podcast and maybe even a blog comes in the same week that the Boston Globe announces yet more retrenchment, closing its last three foreign bureaus (hey but they still have Danvers!)

Adam Reilly and Jon Keller see potential hazards for the fourth estate in Patrick adopting the 21st Century version of the fireside chat (even though Patrick admits he started a smoky mess rather than a fire in the Corner Office). Keller helpfully offers "corrections" to the Patrick news release.
These weekly addresses will allow the public a glimpse inside the Governor’s office in a new and exciting way.” No, they won’t. They will provide a three-minute dosage of the governor’s latest rhetoric, similar to whatever he’s doling out in his press conferences and speeches.

“I hope to continue the conversation we have started through a weekly podcast.” Sorry, a podcast is not a conversation, it’s a monologue. The blog Patrick is reportedly starting, if it enables reader responses, could be more like a conversation, if in fact the comments are read and there’s a continuing dialogue.

“New podcasts will be added regularly, and will be one of many tools the Governor uses to interact directly with the public.” Swell, and, as I said, smart. But quite frankly, one-way “interaction” is not what most Patrick voters had in mind. They want action, dramatic and swift changes in the modus operandi around here that has working-class people leaving in droves. That will be a function of guts and nerve, not clever technology.
The Statehouse press has had it easy for too long because of governors indifferent to the task of communicating with constituents (some were even indifferent about showing up).

At the same time as technology has advanced, the mainstream media has retrenched -- big time. Add to that television's continuing downward spiral into the fast-cut, "if it bleeds it leads mentality," and the reliance on the very same canned "opportunities" that Keller laments -- is it any wonder a politician will look for new tools to get his or her message out?

To be fair, Keller is one of the few who tries to focus on what's happening under the Golden Dome. But the answer, of course, is to use those same journalistic skills analyzing the podcasts and commenting -- with full identification -- in the blogs.

I wholeheartedly agree that politicians of both parties have gotten away for far too long without having their words put to the test by journalists (WMDs anyone?). But moving into the 21st Century by using new technology should not mean they are now beyond reach.

Nor is the new technology necessarily better than the old for ferreting out the truth. Given Scotto's overheated medium of talk radio, could this story about the Patrick campaign be what he is breathless over? (And a tip of the hat to Dan Kennedy for pointing me in directions I normally don't go!)

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