Politicians bypass press to control their message
New office-holders in tech-savvy states turning to Facebook, Twitter
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.