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Blogging Comes to Congress … Sort Of.

Blogging Comes to Congress … Sort Of.

The one-to-many tool that so many of us use and evangelize is finally showing up in Congress. Some intreprid Congressmen persons are even venturing out into the great big blogosphere on their own. As many as 15 House Republicans and Democrats have their own blog, including a House Republican named Paul Gillmor of Ohio. According to a report at TechWeb, Rep. Gillmor gets around 5000 “hits” a month (someone needs to update Mr. Gillmor on the metrics lingo; I think “hits” flew out of favour in 1999 or so), but uses his blog, Gillmorblog.com to: “provides daily commentary on current political issues, as well as photographs and videos.”

However, in true Congress person fashion, you may not be at all surprised to hear that although the blog bear’s Mr. Gillmor’s name, most of the content is written by his staffers. And while he has comments enabled (which is most excellent), all of them are vetted. By his staffers.

While I think its great that blogs are coming to American politics, the sanitized and neutered version we’re seeing fails on all accounts when analyzed under the two out of the three tenets of blogging: authenticity, transparency and engagement.

When its unclear who is the author behind the posts, or the comments, its hard to know how “authentic” the voice really is if a multi-author blog is really blogging under a single name; secondly, a blog isn’t “transparent” if, even for the sake of expediency, Rep. Gillmor is getting his staffers to write under his name.

What is to be commended is how his comments are turned on. Furthermore, Rep. Gillmor also appears to be answering questions in his comments (if that’s who is replying), which is great. This kind of accessibility with your local politician is wonderful, particularly when many appear to be behind many layers of administration. Of course, the caveat is that it many only give the appearance of doing so as a) his staffers may be answering the comments and b) the comments are moderated (but only for language).

Now, there are examples of a blog that is completely authored by a politician, comments and all. Some Irish politicians do it with some success, as does at least one Canadian politician, Garth Turner, who is often seen blogging during a session of Parliament.

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Garth Turner, who blogs at Garth.ca, was in fact fired from his caucus for his salty and unvarnished opinions that appeared on his blog some months ago. What about the most important opinions of all? (No, not the lobbyists) Well, not surprisingly, his constituency loved it. They loved his honesty, his candour and his unwillingness to back down on his real opinions.

Hmmm. Honesty, and an unwillingness to back down. I wonder if that’s how most people actually want their politicians?

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