Rating Illinois Political Blogs
Blogs are no longer hip or cool. By virtue of who's using them now, they are common tools of the political trade, and if you don't have a blog, there's probably something wrong with you. Case in point, three new blogs operated by Illinois political personalities, Sen. Barack Obama, CTA Chair Carole Brown, and Cook County Board Member (and Board President candidate) Tony Peraica.
Blogs derive their power in two ways, first to disseminate information to readers who want their communications raw and unfiltered. Second, through that lack of filter, to convey a real sense of personality to readers that might never have a chance to meet the writer. The first campaign blog that really understood these points, Dean for America, was smart enough to assign campaign manager Joe Trippi to write when presidential candidate Howard Dean couldn't. Trippi had the authority to write about whatever he wanted, used the platform to convey a constant sense of mission, and to convey the mood of the campaign, as well as pleas for money and volunteer time. Readers felt this urgency, and responded by not only reading the blog regularly (a major success for any campaign website), but by joining the campaign.
The three blogs mentioned above seem to understand some of those components, but not entirely. Of the three, Carole Brown's is the only one clearly written by the protagonist. Her remarks seem to be off the cuff, and lack the edited flavor of press secretary writing. While she seems to be posting only once a week or so, her comments reflect frustration, and it's believable that someone in her position would have memorized so many statistics about the CTA system. If she keeps at it, her blog has the potential of really winning over some regular joes, and that could make a big difference for her cause, whatever it may be.
Commissioner Peraica's blog reads like your stereotypical angry conservative voter blog. Not a whole lot of information, lots of quotes from newspaper, but what whatever original comment exists is filled with invective and vitriol. For instance, yesterday's entry reads in part, "Another day, another John Stroger scandal," and then quotes from a Sun-Times article. We get that Mr. Peraica (or at least his campaign staff) is angry. But we don't learn what Mr. Peraica would do to remedy the situation, or any sense of how the "scandal" pushes him to run harder for County Board President.
It's possible that Tony Peraica is writing the blog himself, but so far there's no personality to the blog, and nothing to draw the reader back on a regular basis.
Probably the blog with the most potential, and therefore the most disappointment, is Sen. Barack Obama's. The newly minted U.S. Senator starts off with two fantastic advantages. First, during his Senate campaign he operated one of the best web sites in the election cycle, a reflection of his hiring a squad of Dean campaign geeks who became available after the Democratic primary. Second, Obama has no lack of personality, which seeps into every public appearance, whether on TV or in person. Yet, his blog is almost completely devoid of What Makes Barack Shine.
With the exception of two entries, the opening and a note about the Illini-Arizona college basketball game, none of the entries give a sense of what Senator Obama really cares about, or his sense of mission as he works his way up from a lowly Senate freshman. This is a blog with real potential to fire up not only his Illinois supporters, but to capture the hearts of some opponents, and to convince some of his political rivals that they are working against a man with a mission. Instead readers are treated to press-release quality writing and limply scripted stories of inspiration.
Note to Sen. Obama's staff: What works for press releases to Copley News Service doesn't work on blogs, boys.
You can be sure that in coming months more political blogs will pop up as candidates for the 2006 primaries search for ways to gain press attention and try to reach voters. But if the above blog attempts are indicative of the future, it's just as likely that new political candidate blogs will just as often lack interesting material and remain devoid of personality.