DC Scoop

Summer of Digital Campaigning at Georgetown

Generation Engage

Starting at the local level, Generation Engage aims to educate and involve young people in politics in a non-partisan manner.  They simply want young people to be involved, and they foster the means for this.  Whether at a cyber café, house of worship or some other venue, this group seeks to involve youth who otherwise would not have access to political involvement. 

Founded in 2004, Generation Engage targets young voters, particularly those who have no college experience.  The aim of its founders was to close the political gap that plagues young voters and stimulate dialogue about politics and the future of our country. 

 According to its Web site, Generation Engage is built on three principles:

1.  Young people suffer not from a lack of interest, but from a lack of access

2. Our democracy should be a dialogue, not a monologue

3.  The best investment we can make in the future of our democracy is in young leaders at the local level

 Of course, technology plays a large part in this as well.  The group’s Facebook allows members with similar interests to interact, recruit other members and donate. As with many grass roots organizations, membership and donations are what drive the group.  It’s numbers are small, but opportunities are available for young people to become active and question local and national government in ways that were not an option when I was younger.


Generation Engage has provided opportunities for its members to interact with and question President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and others – both during an election year and in off-years as well. 


But in an election year so contested as 2008, it’s imperative that young people are aware of politics.  As technology continues to bring people ever closer together, young voters are leading the way for new forms of communication and advancements in politics.  They are aware of local and international issues and use technology to connect with people across the globe.  It’s an incredible opportunity for young voters, and groups like this should be commended for their efforts to invest so much in our youth.

July 25, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9), Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Hillary’s Presidential Campaign Legacy

Though the Democratic nomination is expected to go to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton left a mark on the 2008 presidential campaign that will be remembered in elections to come.  Whether or not gender had anything to do with her failure to receive the Democratic nod, she will be remembered as the first woman to get as far as she did. 

I had no intention of voting for Hillary Clinton, but I did feel a tug at my typically unemotional heartstrings when she exited the race.   I am no feminist, but there is something to be said for a woman who gets as far as she did in a man’s game.  Hindsight of course gives us the benefit of analyzing her missteps. 

As I questioned before, was her campaign technologically challenged? 

She cried – not once…

but twice…


She cackled…


She sat down with Bill O’Reilly…

Chelsea said that Hillary would make a better president than Bill…

Leaving hindsight behind, some speculate that she’s prepping for 2012.  That move wouldn’t surprise many – the Clintons are notorious for their planning, organization and ability to get what they want.

Despite what is going on behind the scenes with the Clinton campaign, she has decided to put the party first.  Not that she had a choice, but she has put her full support behind Obama.

Though there are dissenters, her supporters are largely following suit.  For example, Emily’s List, an organization “dedicated to building a progressive America by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office,” has now pledged its support to Obama. 

Where does Hillary go from here?  Maybe she’ll be Obama’s Vice Presidential choice.  Maybe she’ll choose to remain in the Senate.  But, like it or not, she’s has done the right thing for the party by endorsing Obama.   She really didn’t have a choice, especially if she plans to run again later.  She had to endorse Obama – for the party and for herself.  But I think that her legacy will be that she kept her chin up and did the right thing – for the Democratic party.  The rest is just speculation.  I’m also speculating that we haven’t seen the last of Hillary vying for the White House.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | Final Project Posts (3), Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Obama: Leading the Char… Wait, What?

A presidential candidate is going to Iraq – finally!  Just when you thought the candidates had forgotten the wars in the Middle East, Obama steps up and paves the way.  He’s such a leader.



Of course, we forget that McCain went in March. 



McCain’s trip received little fanfare, and he didn’t have the bragging rights of all three network anchors in tow.   In fact, John McCain has taken three foreign trips in the last few months, and not one included a network anchor.  In March, he traveled to Britain, France and IsraelNBC and ABC sent correspondents.  CBS sent no one. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer even managed to turn this trip into a taxpayer-funded issue.  His trip to Canada in June was not covered at all by the evening newscasts, and very little coverage was given to his trip to Colombia and Mexico a few weeks ago.



Obama has not been to Iraq since 2006 and has never been to Afghanistan.  This lack of direct knowledge of the situation has, so far, qualified him to push for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq should he become president.  I presume Obama’s trip is as equally political as it is legitimate, but that’s no surprise at this point.


Media Research Center reports:


“During the week of March 16, McCain’s trip received only four full-length stories during the combined ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news program coverage. Three of those stories were on NBC’s “Nightly News,” one of which focused on McCain’s mistaken comment about Iran funding Al Qaeda in Iraq. ABC’s “World News” did only one full-length story on McCain’s Iraq trip, which mentioned the gaffe. The CBS “Evening News” was by far the worst, devoting only 31 words, a grand total of 10 seconds, to the Republican nominee’s Iraq visit during the entire week of evening news coverage.”


Even the Daily Kos acknowledges “Obamamania.”  But, get this, they say that McCain is getting less coverage because the press likes him more than ObamaYou read that correctly.  Daily Kos believes that Obama increases ratings in a way that McCain doesn’t, and that’s why he’s the media superstar.  “Media people,” they claim, “hate it.  But they follow what sells.” 


So it’s really the viewers who determine coverage, not network heads with a personal interest in politics.  Right.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Final Project Posts (3), Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Cyrus Krohn & GOP.com

I think the main difference between the Democrat’s online platform and the Republican’s online platform is that the Dems have done it, well, better.  They started earlier with their online endeavors.  Their constituents embraced the technological involvement of the 2008 Presidential race.  Certain Republicans did too – Ron Paul’s backers rallied tremendously online – but overall, their efforts were far less commendable.

Cyrus Krohn has a huge responsibility with GOP.comWhere do the Republicans go technologically if McCain doesn’t win in November?  GOP.com is definitely a step in the right direction for the Republicans, one that, win or lose, needs to be continually advanced. 

But a few criticisms, if I might…

First, the site takes forever to load (as do other links when I clicked on them), which is an unnecessary frustration.  Those valuable few seconds give me the opportunity to type a different address into my browser and be on my way.  If I want to join the GOP, make a donation to the cause or read some dish about an opponent, don’t give me an excuse not to by taking too long to load the page.

At any given time, visitors might think this is an Obama Web site at first glance: 


Give opponents their due, but chances are that people who visit this site are voting for McCain to begin with.  Obama information is absolutely necessary, but it doesn’t have to be front and center. 

Finding the donation application widget took me two days, four phone calls and an email.  Turns out that the widget isn’t even part of GOP.com – it’s part of meetbarackobama.com, one of the RNC’s other sites that’s linked-to from the GOP.com homepage.  Confused yet?  I would suggest making this much easier to find or simply posting it on the homepage.  It’s a great tool, but why is it buried?


The staggering amount of data about voters that is collected, cross-referenced and analyzed is overwhelming but impressive.  I assume that both parties have equally detailed databases.  People tend to feel as if their privacy has been invaded, but it should be no surprise that the bottom line of this technology is money, power and influence – on both sides. 

Of course it’s easier to point out the negatives.  Overall, the site looks great.  It’s networks – Facebookdel.icio.us and digg to name a few – are readily available. The RNC’s YouTube page is richly designed and opens with this video:

But again, all pages seem to take forever to load, which only perpetuates the impression that Republicans are old, stodgy and behind the times. 

Krohn had a right to be proud of the “Republican Platform Committee” page. 

For once in the tech realm, the Republicans had something great and they had it first.  The site is very interactive, allowing for both text and video entries.  It also was a wise call to allow (almost) everything to post.  Nothing should be hidden, especially when internet viewers are lurking in the shadows, ready at a moments notice to jump on an inaccuracy or inconsistency.  Also, the Valentines were funny and unique in their simplicity.  I’d definitely send one out!

Just a few criticisms, but overall, well-done, Republicans.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Final Project Posts (3), Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JibJab – Now This is Funny

Whether you love politics or hate politics, whether you’re voting red or voting blue, whether you’re sick of the negative campaigning yet or not, the new video from JibJab is for everyone and spares no one. 



I laughed out-loud during this video – especially the part when Bill, in his boxers with a sexy lady friend, mentions something about a cigar and simultaneously gets whacked over the head by Hill with a frying pan.   McCain keels over in the hospital.  Obama dances peacefully with the forest animals. 


And the best part?  You can have your own cameo – that’s always fun!  What better way to involve people than to make something that has nothing to do with them about them? 


Yes, this is sarcasm/wit/humor at its best.  Or worst, depending on your brand of humor, I guess.  But the difference between this and, for example, this week’s cover of The New Yorker



…is that the JibJab video is obviously humorous.  The New Yorker’s statement that this is satire would be offensive if if weren’t so ridiculous.  Maybe they figured that since they were such obvious Obama supporters, they could get away with mocking the worst possible things that have been inferred and directly stated about him and his wife.  But the Obamas weren’t laughing.  And neither were the McCains.  Nor were the voters or the news media. 


But The New Yorker received a load of press about it.  If Obama wants to see the silver lining in this horrendously distasteful cover, it’s that media outlets from Fox News and CNN to local programs were saying, once again, that Obama is not a Muslim.  He is not a radical.  He does want to capture UBL.  Michelle Obama does love her country.  Also shocking in this fiasco was the Pew Research Center poll presented that showed just how many people in our country still believe Obama is a Muslim. 




As a former Midwesterner, I can safely guarantee that very few, if any, Midwesterners (or likeminded voters) read The New Yorker.  Maybe all the media attention around this cover actually did educate some of those who believed Obama was a Muslim to the truth about his faith and his values.  His supporters have a right to be upset and offended.  But they knew the truth to begin with and are still standing strong behind their candidate.


For now though, check out the JibJab video and remember to have a laugh about politics too.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9), Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Data Mining and Microtargeting

Data mining and microtargeting.  Two words that sound very boring.  But trust me, they’re very interesting, particularly because they contain a lot of information about you.  The boring connotations of data mining and microtargeting are countered by their very literal implementation.  Gathering statistics about voters and then tailoring specific messages to specific voters based on that information is the very short description.


The two practices were perfected by “the architect” Karl  Rove in the 2004 presidential election.  Yes, this guy…



Anyway, data mining and microtargeting are now heavily in play to determine who will vote for whom on election day 2008 and what can be done in the meantime to persuade voters one way or the other.  Data miners literally sift through tremendous amounts of information that has been stored in databases.  They search for anything useful in determining who’s blue and who’s red come November 4.  Once decided, these databases are used to microtarget, or cater specific messages to specific groups of people.  Direct mail, direct e-mail, cold calls, internet ads, and television ads are some of the ways to tailor messages to certain demographic groups. 


It should come as no shock that your personal information is up for grabs.  The practice seems like a violation of privacy, but it’s completely legal.  Credit card companies, for example, have mastered the art of making money off of you beyond standard annual and late fees.  They sell your information, and political parties are buying.  Consider these questions:  Do you pay taxes?  Own a home?  Own a car?  Use a credit card?  Have kids?  Have a degree?  Take vacations?  Buy pay-per-view movies?  Buy music online? Own a fishing license?  Have an EZ-Pass?  Vote?  If you have ever done any of these things, somewhere there’s a record of it. 


Both parties are perpetually updating and adding to their databases of voters.  There’s too much at stake, and the information is too readily available not to.  Then they cross reference and analyze and re-analyze the data about you, the voter, and tailor their messages accordingly.  The red guys call their database Voter Vault, while the blue guys are using a company called Catalist to compile their database.  It’s a safe bet that you’re in both.  And each group hits you with very specific messages in a variety of ways. 


We can only hope that they use this information to listen to the voice of the voters too, a simple concept that seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. 

July 12, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

James Kotecki

James Kotecki’s reporting and his style of reporting reminds me of an online, younger generation of The Daily Show.  He’s humorous and sarcastic, but also factual. 


Journalism must remain enterprising and embrace new technologies.  I would much rather be watching Kotecki

on Youtube than reading rehashed press releases that predate the 1972 election, as was noted in The Boys on the Bus.


Kotecki mentioned a story where Obama declined to sign a young student’s hand.  The mainstream press initially (and incorrectly) reported that Obama declined to give the kid a fist bumpprovoking indignation and complete outrage.  But, thanks to a video posted online, the truth was revealed , thus forcing media outlets from ABC to James Kotecki to admit their error in reporting.  




Without technology the video would never have been taken and it would have never been posted to the Web.  Rumors would have spun out of control about how Obama slighted a child.  The Web corrected this.  Technology may mot give candidates any privacy, but they know this ahead of time.  But it does hold people accountable.  In this case ABC and every other media outlet who ran the false Obama story (including Kotecki) had the spotlight turned around on them. 


When Ron Paul visits your dorm room for an interview, you’re a journalist.  Maybe you’re an honorary journalist or a junior journalist (because the video is filmed in your dorm room), but you’re still a journalist.  As of July 3 when I watched the interview, 377,564 people had watched it before me.




His interview with Senator Mike Gravel only received 36,803 views, but that’s not worth discounting. 





Who the hell is Mike Gravel, you may ask?  He’s the guy who tried to steal Obama Girl from Obama


(He was also a presidential candidate!) 



The point is, Kotecki was enterprising.  He also interviewed five other candidates, including Mike Huckabee and John Edwards.  That’s a pretty impressive feat for a kid from Georgetown to accomplish.


Kotecki’s style and audience may be different than Chris Matthews, but he has a following.  His followers are largely from a different generation than Matthews’s followers.  They demand a different type of journalism. 


There’s no question to me that Kotecki is a journalist.  He’s a new type of journalist, embracing the new mediums that are available.  It’s not that the “old school” journalists are on the way out – yet.  It would be tough to argue that Rush Limbaughwho just signed a $400 million contract to remain a radio commentator through 2016, is on the way out.


In fact, the contract is unprecedented.  Say what you want about Rush, but you have to be pretty successful to command this salary.  He may seem old school to some and may be despised by others, but $400 million speaks for itself.


There is room in the industry for all types, from the Kotecki’s to the Limbaugh’s, and that’s what we’re seeing.  It’s what keeps us competitive and strong as a nation, and it’s what keeps our politicians accountable.  Some may even call it “the American Way.” 



July 4, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9) | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2008 Personal Democracy Forum (Fundraising Week)


I don’t need a president who knows the ins and outs of Twitter, Google Reader and more sophisticated programs.  There are far more important things for the President to focus on.  However, it’s dangerous and shortsighted to not have a working knowledge or basic comprehension of the internet.  The internet is not a fluke; it is not a trend or a fad with a short shelf-life.  It has, in fact, revolutionized communication, and will continue to move in new, dynamic directions.  True, there is a generational divide that separates the candidates, but that’s no excuse for McCain to not have basic knowledge of the power of the internet and the subsequent empowerment of those who use it.


Zephyr Teachout made a good point when, at the Personal Democracy Forum, she said the presidency is the least democratic institution and has not served as a successful check on corruption.  Technology, she states, can be used to “suck a lot of power out of Washington and the federal government” and put it back into the states.  Jeff Jarvis supported that line of thinking by noting that, “with technology, we have the opportunity to open government in new ways.” 


Obviously, certain decisions need to remain in the hands of informed decision-makers.  National security issues, for example, must be kept to those in the know.  The government has largely shifted away from its accountability, but the internet and new technologies are bringing that accountability around full-circle.  Voters are sharing their personal insight more than ever in the past.  It’s not that they didn’t want to before, but now they have the means to do so.  As Jay Rosen said, media has now taken the form of many producers speaking to many people.  Mass media still has tremendous impact on information dissemination, but the major outlets are not solely shaping news coverage.


Youth are involved in greater numbers than ever before.  Credit is due to executives at MTV Networks for their Rock the Vote efforts that have been tirelessly executed for as long as I can remember.  Though they tried, they did not impact America’s youth the way that the internet has. 


Barack Obama has received an overwhelming show of support from his online supporters, from blogs to videos to donations.  Traditional media may seem boring and outdated to a lot of people.  The internet allows people to actually be involved in a presidential campaign.  Obama is taking a beating for not accepting public campaign financing.  True, he made a different pledge about public financing that is causing those on the right to shout “hypocrisy.”  I don’t think the argument will sustain, nor will it have much, if any, impact on Obama supporters (or even those who may still be undecided).  I would argue that this is yet another example of how 2008 is a different presidential race than ever before.  It would be hard to find a candidate who would truthfully take public campaign financing when the alternative is so much better.   


The ideas and opinions expressed at the Personal Democracy Forum are things that the candidates should take seriously.  Subsequent elections will look back at this historic time and analyze and second guess and “what if” to no end.  Who knows where all of this technology leads, but it is exciting to be a part of it now, aware of the changes that are taking place.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9) | , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Got a Crush on Obama. Haha, just kidding.

Before I moved to DC, I lived in New York. And in approximately two months, I’ll be moving back. I cannot wait. My life was loaded with great friends, a fabulous social life and a kick-ass wardrobe all crammed into a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village. It wasn’t like the TV shows and movies. It was better. Among my great friends was a girl named Amber. You probably know her as “Obama Girl.”



Amber and I met in New York when we were both waitressing until we found better jobs, “real” jobs. Typical story, right? Girl moves to the city. Girl gets a job as a waitress. Girl has the time of her life.


We have both moved on to different things, but speaking as someone who knew Amber personally, I can say that this girl is the real deal. She’s forthright. She works her butt off. She’s genuinely a nice person. And she’s smokin’ hot, but of course you already know that.


Amber was born to be in front of a camera. She has a presence. She gives 110% to every project that she takes on. But without the internet and a campy video about a presidential candidate, who knows if Amber would have been “discovered.” She definitely should have been, but I’m biased.


Whether it was foresight on the part of her management team or just dumb luck, Amber chose a hit when she partnered with the makers of ‘I Got a Crush on Obama.’ Thanks to the internet’s distribution of the video (and its subsequent follow-ups), her Web sites, virtual real-time updates with Obama Girl appearances and live chats, not to mention all of her traditional media appearances from Fox News to the Today Show, it will be hard to think of Barack Obama’s run for the White House without thinking of Obama Girl. You can also check out the video at barelypolitical.com, the makers of the Web hit.  The internet has blasted her into fame, but the internet also has a funny way of turning fame into infamy. Whether or not this will last for Amber remains to be seen. Here’s hoping that she has a top management team to advise her and that her star keeps rising.


I have posted two candid photos of Amber and me hanging out, one taken in Vegas, the other in NYC. The official Obama Girl Web site is pretty interactive with videos, pictures, or just to post comments. Or check out her personal Web site for a bit of background, more photos and all that good stuff. See, it’s like you know her too. All thanks to the Web.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Extra Posts (4) | , , | 1 Comment

Voter-Generated Content

Obama’s Facebook page may be campaign generated, but his 1million + friends are voter generated.  From Facebook, voters can interact with one another, ‘friend’ each other, discuss the campaign, view past speeches, follow Obama’s path toward the White House and, in general, feel as though they are connected to Obama and his campaign of change.  Further, type in the name “Barack Obama” in Facebook’s search, and over 500 profiles are returned.  I didn’t personally check that every single profile was in relation to the presidential candidate, but a safe assumption may be that a majority of them deal with either Obama or the 2008 election in some way.  Here, voters can create their own Obama groups, and likeminded voters can join and share. 


YouTube has provided an unprecedented amount of voter-generated content, even compared to other voter-generated Web sites.  Voters have a true voice here.  They actually impact a campaign’s performance and are cause for discussion on both sides of the political divide.  With a click, they can be watched and re-watched, forwarded, and commented on.  The phenomenon is amazing, and literally anyone can voice their opinion through the video medium.  Celebrities post their presidential endorsements via the same medium that the average guy posts his homemade video.  YouTube even co-hosted a debate with CNN.  When Anderson Cooper hosts a debate with an online video sharing Web site, it’s safe to assume that the Web site is a major player.  As I mentioned in previous posts, Obama Girl, Blue Balled and the 1984/Hillary Clinton commercial achieved notoriety with YouTube.  These are just a few well-known examples, but they are a drop in the bucket in terms of voter-generated, campaign influencing YouTube content.



Ron Paul became a hit because of voter generated content via the Web.  Unfortunately for him and his campaign, this alone wasn’t enough.  But it proved that the power of the internet wasn’t just a fluke for people like Obama.  As a Libertarian, Paul appealed to the internet junkies and younger generations who turn to the Web for news.  Mainstream media may not have given Ron Paul a fair shake, but his online success made people take notice.  Ron Paul wouldn’t have been a mainstream contender if information dissemination was strictly through traditional routes.  Not that he was a serious contender via the internet.  But his internet fame and support was enough for him to be noticed and for his opinions to be taken seriously. 


Futuremajority.com is a site written by youth voters for youth voters.  The site gives updates on the campaign trail, links to other relevant sites, posts blogs, features YouTube videos, registers voters and gives facts and figures on youth voter turnout, among other things.  It’s a one-stop-shop for young voters.  True, this information is compiled in the same ways on many other sites, but this is directed at youth voters, many of whom will be voting in their first election. 

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Reading Response Blogs (9) | , , , , | Leave a comment