Every serious Presidential candidate is bound to inspire lots of letters to the editor of the local newspaper, or to prompt voters to call in to the local radio talkback show or C-Span to voice a comment. The Kerry campaign isn’t leaving anything to chance, though. The campaign is recruiting people for John Kerry's Media Corps—volunteers who receive e-mails with the campaign’s research and talking points in order to help them spread Kerry’s message through the local media. The campaign offers tips on how to write an effective letter and place a call on talk radio. It suggests dozens of “positive words to use in support of John Kerry” like “common sense,” “leadership,” “vision,” and “warmth.” The Media Corps even has a style guide, suggesting that letters to the editor be 200 words or less. We’re used to pundits and campaign spokespeople doing spin and sound bites. But ordinary voters?
In a sense, giving Kerry/Edwards supporters an online course in getting the message out is one more sign of how e-paigning is transforming politics. In the beginning (four short years ago, remember?), there were candidate websites with bios and information for voters, and speeches and press releases delivered digitally to the media. Then last winter, Democrat Howard Dean showed rivals that the online medium could be tapped to raise millions of dollars in campaign funds from small donors. Dean also demonstrated how to create national networks of passionately partisan “Deaniacs” using Internet town halls, chat rooms, and blogs.
Now, apparently posing as everyday Americans, Kerry/Edwards partisans everywhere are stealthily preparing to tell us how great Kerry’s Presidential nomination acceptance speech was before he’s even spoken a word. I know: lawmakers do that all the time before State of the Union speeches in Washington. And in an age when anyone can be a blogger or create their own website, perhaps it’s inevitable that anyone can be a spinner, too. So the next time you read a letter to the editor, or hear a caller on talk radio expressing sincere support for something Kerry has done, consider that it just may be that week’s Media Corps assignment.
Reader Ryan Singel responds: "Yup, folks are getting smarter, but this is hardly a one-sided affair. Check out how well put together the GOP team leader site is. Talking points, pre-made letters to the editor, etc. All very well put together and if you do it enough you get Republican shwag like gop mouse pads."