New media and politics

Blogs have been prominent in politics since the last US Presidential election and are set to join other forms of new media as part of an array of media tools employed by presidential candidates in the run up to the 2008 US Presidential election. One of the hopefuls is John Edwards who ran with John Kerry against George Bush in 2004. Edwards just recently announced his candidacy for the Democratic party nomination and has asked Robert Scoble, among others, to travel with him and cover his efforts.

This has raised an interesting side issue that has been more of an issue when it comes to corporate blogging. Who is paying Scoble’s bills and what effect will that have, if any, on his blogging? According to Scoble and to, Scoble’s employer, will be picking up the Scoble’s costs.

PodTech will pick up my travel expenses to and from, and my hotel and meal expenses. At least that’s the current plan. If that changes, I will let you know. Again, if I sell my soul, I’ll do it in full public view so you know all my biases and conflicts of interest.

I am covering this trip as a journalist for I am not being paid or compensated by the Edwards’ campaign. They are paying for a plane to fly us around, though, and I’m not sure if that’s something that PodTech can compensate for, so let’s just say that’s being covered by the Edwards’ campaign.

More to come tomorrow after I get in, figure out what’s up, and all that.

Are there any restrictions as to what I can write or shoot? Not that I know of. None have been communicated yet.

The fact that this is a concern is indicative of the fact that bloggers, especially popular bloggers like Scoble, are required to be open about anything that may influence their writing, particularly when it comes to blogging about political events. Scoble has already been accused of selling out and I am starting to wonder if the need to keep blogs authentic hasn’t been taken a little too far by some people. It is almost as if keeping blogs authentic means that they have to be kept free and that bloggers can’t be asked to participate in something like a presidential campaign and blog about it? The implication is that if a blogger travels with a politician and covers the campaign then the blogger has immediately sold out and the blog won’t be authentic because it has somehow been tainted.

I find myself thinking about other events and ideas like the hippy 60s with its free love and the open source software movement and some people’s expectations that open source software always be free or it is tainted. Blogs should be authentic or they will lose a key element of what makes them so powerful. At the same time, why shouldn’t high profile bloggers cover events and people like journalists do use the reach of their subscriber base to promote those events and people when the blogger feels it is deserved? The popularity those bloggers enjoy can also prove to be a powerful spotlight should those events or people turn out to be less than they make themselves out to be and this is when we will see what bloggers like Scoble are made of (as if they must keep proving themselves!).

Another interesting tidbit that comes out of this campaign is how Edwards is using tools like his blog and YouTube to spread the word about his campaign. I wonder if local politicians will be using YouTube in the run up to the 2009 elections here at home?

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