Politi­cians by­pass press to con­trol their mes­sage

New of­fice-hold­ers in tech-savvy states turn­ing to Facebook, Twit­ter

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Ivan Moreno

SPRING­FIELD, ILL.» To de­liver his first ex­ten­sive re­marks on the con­tentious Dakota Ac­cess oil pipeline, all the new North Dakota gov­er­nor needed was a cam­era and a Facebook ac­count.

The sim­plic­ity of the setup spared Repub­li­can Gov. Doug Bur­gum from hav­ing to an­swer ques­tions from re­porters and al­lowed him to con­vey his thoughts un­fil­tered and un­chal­lenged by the me­dia.

It’s a strat­egy that’s been used for a while by gov­er­nors, state law­mak­ers and other elected of­fi­cials in more tech-savvy states and it’s be­com­ing pop­u­lar among new-to-pol­i­tics of­fice­hold­ers, such as Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump, who heav­ily re­lies on Twit­ter to share his thoughts. Some Colorado House Repub­li­cans film a weekly YouTube mes­sage dur­ing the leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

By mak­ing so­cial me­dia plat­forms the first stop to an­nounce or re­act to events in a con­trolled set­ting, the politi­cians are by­pass­ing the me­dia — who could call into ques­tion as­ser­tions made at news con­fer­ences — and tak­ing their mes­sage to where their au­di­ence is most likely to be en­gaged.

“Politi­cians are al­ways try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with po­ten­tial vot­ers. They want to get a mes­sage out and they want to tell the story the way they want to tell it,” said Christo­pher Mooney, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Govern­ment and Pub­lic Af­fairs at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois.

A July re­port from the Pew Re­search Center on Jour­nal­ism and Me­dia found that 44 per­cent of U.S. adults said so­cial me­dia in­formed them of events in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion dur­ing a week in Jan­uary. About 29 per­cent re­lied on a lo­cal print news­pa­per.

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