KUOW’s Austin Jenkins has a good piece on the role of social media in amplifying the controversy over NRA lobbyist Brian Judy’s offensively Godwinian comments:
Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University, said he technology as the key driver here — from the recording device planted in the audience to Twitter as a means of quickly disseminating the audio and transcript.
“Think even just 10 years ago,” Donovan said. “You couldn’t probably do this much in a one or two day news cycle, right?”
Yeah, well, true, no doubt. But don’t forget the role of an independent media—like Horsesass.org—in putting legs underneath a story like this, a role I’ve been filling in one capacity or another since 2004.
When the rest of our local media decided to sit on a sexual harassment scandal involving Washington’s longtime Lands Commissioner, I’m the one who broke the story and quickly forced it to the front page. When in the midst of a close race for King County Executive, media insiders laughed about how his own mother wouldn’t vote for Republican David Irons Jr., but refused to explain to voters the reasons why, I’m the one who forced the issue onto the airwaves, changing the complexion of the final three weeks of the election. And even as President George W. Bush was thanking FEMA director Mike Brown for doing “a heckuva job” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I was exposing the cronyism that had led to his disastrously unqualified appointment—an exposé that Brown himself blamed for his demise:
When I was forced off the pages of The Stranger in the heat of the minimum wage debate, there were business owners who cheered at the thought that they had finally shut me up. But I wasn’t about to give them that satisfaction. And so I returned to HA, if only part-time, gradually rebuilding its audience and influence so that I could use my shitty little foul-mouthed blog to once again make a difference the next time an opportunity to make a difference came my way.
This was one of those opportunities. And it felt damn good to play my role.
Maybe a traditional news outlet might have done as well had the audio come their way, or maybe they would have soft-balled it or failed to see its significance altogether. For as I have repeatedly preached to my friends in the broader progressive community, you just can’t rely on the Blethen-controled “objective” gatekeepers at the Seattle Times, or the sound-bite-constrained reporters of broadcast news, or the access-obsessed insiders at PubliCola, or even my well-meaning but distracted and overworked (and occasionally fired) ex-colleagues at The Stranger to get your message out, and get it out right. You need bloggers like me working at truly independent but fiercely progressive media outlets like HA.
And we need you to help us earn a living wage.
Twitter and Facebook are great tools for amplifying your message—hell, that’s how I draw most of my eyeballs these days, now that I’m no longer sucking at Dan Savage’s swollen Internet traffic teat. But social media is nothing without the content to drive it. And so rather than continuing to spend the bulk of your communications budgets on media outreach—whatever the technology—I remain convinced that local progressive organizations would realize much more bang for their messaging buck by coming together and funding an independent local progressive media outlet of their own.