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Posts Tagged ‘new media’

Introducing Shenandoah Sunshine

May 16, 2011 1 comment

UPDATE: I noticed that a number of people are landing here when searching for Shenandoah Sunshine. At the time of this post the blog wasn’t up, so no link. Of course, the blog is now rolling, and you may find it here.

During my time at the University of Virginia, I first became interested in the art of blogging. At the time, blogging was just getting established as a media platform. There’s not much to it, really–essentially, a blog is really just a website that is updated very frequently, with the newest material presented first on the front page. They’re really not all that different from the earliest websites around–in fact, some of the earliest blogs came online around 1994. What really put blogging on the map was a change in accessibility and tone.

These two changes occurred around the same time. Previously, maintaining a blog required a modicum of web design and maintenance skills, depending on what you were trying to accomplish. During the late 90s and early 00s, however, enterprising web gurus develop software and services that allowed pretty much anyone with the most basic of word processing and web surfing skills (i.e. click here to publish) to start a blog. Additionally, they even offered to host it for you, meaning there was no investment other than time. It was on par with other developments in publishing: first came hand written texts, which was limited to those with the ability and time to expend in copying them. Then there was the printing press, which suddenly made republication even easier, but still that was limited to those who could afford a press (or those who could convince there was money to be made by the owners in selling their work). Then came mechanization, Xerox, and then finally, blogging–pretty much anyone can be read by others now (though you still have to get people interested). Understandably, each of these methods was taken advantage of by those with political interests, in spreading a message about government and politics. Blogging is no exception.

Certainly there were political bloggers before 2002, but it was in that year that a blogger played a key role in forcing then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to step down following remarks that he made regarding how the nation would have been better off had it elected then Southern Democrat Strom Thurmond during his explicitly segregationist presidential campaign in 1948. Media had been present at the event the comments were made at, but they went unreported. It was this new intrepid group of bloggers, who both had a motive but could also find an audience within the media that shamed them into making a bigger deal of the store, that kicked off a major change in the Senate’s leadership. Blogs further came of age when a group of right leaning bloggers cast light on CBS’s Dan Rather’s reporting on documents that put President Bush’s National Guard service in a dim light. Those documents were proved through blogger’s efforts to be forgeries. The controversy ultimately ended with Dan Rather stepping down from his post as anchor of CBS’s Evening News after 24 years. The message of these incidents was clear: a new generation of reporters and analysts was emerging thanks to the rise of a new form of media with very little cost to entry (both in terms of experience and monetary resources) and access that even TV and newspapers could be jealous of. More importantly, the media, even if they claimed to loathe the competition, was paying attention, and now, they were not the only ones who would decide what stories mattered.

What was there that DIDN’T appeal about blogging to a young political activist with an interest in writing, the internet, and well, making a difference/stirring up trouble (depending on your opinion of my efforts)? I started primarily writing about state politics and blogged off and on about it under both my name and pseudonyms through 2006. During my bout with cancer, I also used blogging as an outlet, though for a much more personal reason. In 2008 and 2009, my interests changed, and I ran first a blog for the Shenandoah County Republican Committee and this humble blog right here.

These efforts were meant to bring a blogging presence to Shenandoah County, but they largely failed for a number of reasons. For one, I just didn’t promote them right. Two, I never quite delivered on my promise of providing news and commentary for the County. Commentary, yeah, commentary that I frankly got some grief for. But this commentary never developed a following outside of a very small political class, and the news just wasn’t there. I wasn’t aggressive enough in either pursuing stories or just plain providing coverage. The opinion I did offer, and that seemed to draw more attention, was on state and national issues.

Still, for reasons I’ll get into below, I continue to see a real need for a new media resource for Shenandoah County and for political and public affairs coverage in the locality. My professional and personal position has changed over the last few months, and after continuing to play with the idea, I’ve finally decided to stop complaining and deliver.

It is with that background that I announce a new project of mine: The Shenandoah Sunshine Project. What is Shenandoah Sunshine? This project is intended to create a free, citizen powered resource for political and government news driven by the power of new media (including blogging, video and social networking). That, however, sounds supisciously like a simple pitch for advertisers, or a (albeit long) Twitter post. So, in that grand jouralistic tradition, I present the who, what, when, where, why and how of Shenandoah Sunshine.

So who are we? Well, for right now, you’re reading his words. Yes, at the present time, Shenandoah Sunshine is a one man band. However, because of the unique platform of new media, we hope that to be relatively short lived. We want to get other citizens involved in reporting on local politics and government. Even if you don’t have the time or interest in lugging a camera (or even pad and pen) to a local government meeting, we still want to hear what you’re interested in. Every platform we use will include some way for you to interact with us and provide us with tips, suggestions, and story ideas. Beyond that, we also hope to be a platform not only for reporting but for commentary and analysis as well–left, right, center, progressive, conservative, we want to hear from you, and provide you with a platform beyond the limitations of the letters to the editor section of the local papers in which to do it. For my part, I plan on restricting myself to a reporting role, covering meetings and reporting just the facts. If I step beyond that to offer opinion, I’ll be clear to label it as such, but I hope to control myself in that regard. But if my reporting appears to be biased, I certainly want to know that as well.

And just what are we going to provide? Well, think of us as CSPAN for Shenandoah County. We’re going to provide news and analysis about Shenandoah County Government and Politics across various social media platforms (video, twitter, facebook). Again, we are strictly limiting ourselves to just government and politics in Shenandoah County. If you’re looking for box scores, the line-up of acts for the Shenandoah County Fair, or what happened at the Relay for Life, sorry, we won’t have it–that’s not what we’re about. We are purposely focusing on the realm of public affairs within a limited geographic area. In short, we hope to be the C-SPAN of Shenandoah County. We want to provide citizens with a front row seat to government and politics in action. We will provide reporting and yes, film of town council and Board of Supervisor meetings and political events. Even CSPAN could be accused of being biased to a certain degree–even a camera angle or selection could be considered a form of bias–but we feel by providing the source material in a way others haven’t, we will be able to provide both a more comprehensive and less biased form of coverage than has ever been attempted in Shenandoah County.

When are we kicking this off? Well, that’s a bit trickier. In a sense, it starts today with the announcement. We want to hear your feedback starting now. What do you want to hear about? Where do you want us to be? Think we’re full of crap and aren’t needed at all and we should be ashamed of ourselves for even suggesting this project? Let us know….even if that won’t call us off. Again, this is all about getting citizens involved in the process, and that includes us, the media. Yet, today, we aren’t launching any stories. We’ve reserved a spot on the major platforms we’ll be using (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress), but content will roll out slowly, because, right now, we haven’t started the heart of the project. That will come soon, though. Our first target: redistricting in Shenandoah County. Look for stories and information beginning tomorrow, and full coverage of next week’s public hearing on the issue before the Board of Supervisors.

Where will we be? This is not a traditional media project. Again, we have a narrow focus, and a different platform. We conciously will not have a traditional press outlet, for several reasons. One, for the kind of coverage we’re providing, we just don’t think that our model is an economically viable one. Other projects that have had a larger community focus have folded–there’s been multiple new printed outlets through the last decade that have come and gone. We just don’t have the financial resources to try, and we don’t think its worth it. Beyond that, we think the present outlets do a good job as printed resources for the community writ large, and we don’t see competing wtih them. More to the point, we hope to do something a little different here. As we’ll outline below, we see a gap in local government and political coverage, and I feel that, frankly, county politics is not taken a s seriously as it could be. To try and change this, I hope to go to where the dialogue is–social media. If the announcement of a public official’s child being born or their engagement can draw people’s attention, why can’t coverage of important issues do so as well? I have a hunch that its because nobody’s tried hard enough, and I want to give it a whirl. It might work, it might not–but it won’t be known until its tried.

So that leads us to another question–just why am I doing this? Well, for starters, I think that, quite frankly, there’s just not enough engagement regarding politics in Shenandoah County. Too often we’ll see public hearings regarding property taxes or school spending packed to the gills, but then at the very next meeting there will be one or two people. Same thing with letters to the editor–there will be a deluge when there’s big issues at hand, but then nothing for weeks or months. Should we just live with this? After all, those are important issues–why not let people live their lives the rest of the year? Well, there’s something to that argument–but the problem with that logic is that these issues often become problems only because of decisions that were made in the past, when people weren’t really paying attention. We don’t blame the citizens directly–people often just don’t have options to hear about this stuff. But we think it matters. Too often, as a political office, I’d ask people about who they were planning to vote for in local elections and I’d get the answer, “sorry, I only vote in presidential elections, the only one that matters.” The problem there is that the vast majority of government operations that affect us in our daily lives, from police protection to public schools to, yes, even turning on the water to brush your teeth in the morning, are the function of local government. It might not be the sexiest or most compelling part of politics, but local politics matters. Right now, I just don’t feel that the local media outlets do as good a job as they good. The Hearld, despite being just focused on the county, has unfortunately curtailed in-depth coverage. The Free Press, while far more in depth, has a clear agenda, and the lines between reporting and opinion are far too often blurred in their coverage. The Northern Virginia Daily does good coverage on occasion, bu they cover Winchester and Front Royal as well and therefore have to manage their reporting and don’t get to cover every meeting as they should. We also don’t think that government itself does as good a job as it should. We want to change that. There may be some that see us “attacking the powers that be” on that front, but we don’t see this as an agenda driven effort. If we have any agenda, its on the side of government transparency and civic engagement. That’s all we care about–we hope to be a platform for political discussion, but before we do that, we want to get people talking through unprecedented political coverage.

To expand on that just for a moment–we realize that we may not have a readership that is a cross section of Shenandoah County at first. Likely, our first readers will probably be those already deeply invested in the political process to begin with. That’s ok–that’s why we’re focusing on social media. We want to start a dialogue, and we feel the quickest way to do that is to give people an easy way to disseminate information regarding local government. Again, it may work, it may not–maybe people really just don’t care, and information on redistricting will never be as popular as baby photos. Someone needs to try, though, and it might as well be the nerd who awaits census data more than word of a classmate’s newborn…..I make no apologies on that front, but as I’ve always felt–somebody’s gotta be that guy in a successful society. It might as well be me.

So how are we going to pull this off? Social media is at the core of this project. A blog, twitter, YouTube and Facebook are at the center of this project. You will find us across all three platforms, and for right now, its going to be heavy lifting on my part. But I want this–I see a real need for this sort of coverage, and I feel compelled to try. There will be more coming across the next few days, and we encourage you to stay tuned. Above all, get involved: talk to us, let us know what you want to hear about, critique us. Because this project is ultimately about you, the citizens, and we believe that we can shine new light on the often confusing but always important nature of local government.

God bless this beautiful land we call the Shenandoah Valley, and god bless America.

Regards,
Craig L. Orndorff

Editor, Shenandoah Sunshine Project

Continuing Advance Coverage

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

CPAC currently leads in the polls, and since I may otherwise be engaged this weekend, the Advance is looking out for me. However, that doesn’t mean an end to our continuing team coverage of RPV’s Advance this weekend. I’m working on plans for a correspondent during the event. Bella has volunteered, but unfortunately there’s no way for me to humanely get her there, and I have yet to discover a way to discreetly mike her, despite the large frame of your average Norwegian Forest cat. Not that I think that a cat would be out of place. This is the confab where there will be much discussion of the Grand Old Party’s new outreach to a wider swath of voters, and I can only assume that includes Feline Americans, given the “Cat Lovers for McDonnell” button I spotted on the trail (and still seek for my collection, FYI).

Ok, enough of my insane ramblings. On to my very real thoughts about the coming weekend. First, some background on the event. It was started by former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Donald S. Huffman, who served from 1983 to 1992. The event is an annual gathering of Republican activists to both discuss the past election’s results (there’s one every year in Virginia) as well as to prepare for the coming year. One would think this of this as a retreat, right? Well, Huffman and the original organizers were of the mind that the GOP should never retreat but always “advance.”

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Politico and Post-Print Journalism

February 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Gabriel Sherman of The New Republic goes inside the misunderstood, highly caffeinated, just get the scoop world of Politco.com, the news source that took the world by storm during Campaign 2008 with its gossipy but always tantalizing stories:

But Politico reporter Jonathan Martin wasn’t there to chat. Martin pressed Obama about the president’s decision to nominate William J. Lynn III, a former defense lobbyist, to deputy defense secretary and about Obama’s pledge to curtail the influence of lobbyists. The exchange turned tense. “See, this is what happens. I can’t end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I’m going to get grilled every time I come down here,” a visibly exasperated Obama said. Martin wouldn’t relent. “I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys–that’s all I was trying to do,” the president added. Within an hour, Martin and Politicowriter Carrie Budoff Brown reported the exchange on Politico‘s website: “OBAMA FLASHES IRRITATION IN PRESS ROOM,” the headline read.

It was–as world events go–a small story. But Politico writers and editors are masters of knowing what will make prime time. Within a few hours, both The Huffington Post and Drudge Report linked to the story, and, by that evening, the conservative blogosphere lit up with items detailing the exchange. The next morning, Rush Limbaugh used the exchange to mock the new president (“You’re not supposed to ask The Messiah questions unless he’s cleared it,” he sniffed). By the end of the day, the “affair” had made the rounds on CNN and Fox News.

Although an excellent exploration of the intersection of old and new media and the slow death of traditional print media, it also raises some important questions about just what news is and means to modern society. It seems that as we become a society of specialists, each with our own niche and area of expertise, our thirst becomes not for the why and how but for the what. What will become of the exhaustive investigative report, the veritable “think piece” considering who and what we are as a society.

Indeed, at more than 250 words, this post itself is considered long for the blog generation. Whatever happened to analysis? Is there still room to really dissect it all, or do we just want “the scoop”?

The Dead Tree DINOs Roar On

February 4, 2009 Leave a comment

From Hot Air, word that the AP is suing the creator of the iconic Obama poster that defined the “unified message/diffused effort nature of the campaign. By their account, the court will likely come down on Fairey’s side:

The nature of the copied work is simple documentary photography of a press conference, not something fictional or highly creative. And the poster doesn’t reduce the value of the AP photo; if anything, it greatly increases it. The only factor that cuts the AP’s way is number three, the fact that Fairey swiped pretty much the whole image to make his poster — but then, that’s what Google does to make its thumbnails and everything’s copacetic with that. Verdict: Fairey wins in a walk. Rock on, “rebel” establishment hagiographer!

Some might expect me to express schadenfruede over the lawsuit, but really, I’m on Fairey’s side with this one. (Plus, however creepy and Che-esque the image may be, it really helped coalesce Obama’s strategy, and you can’t argue with success) With the explosion of the availability of images, sound and video over the internet, there has been alot of discussion over copyright, and with good measure. I respect AP’s copyright and the work they do; however, when they ferociously defend their copyrights in such a manner and almost seek to limit their relevance to the professional newsmakers, they’re actually harming their reputation. With freely available material, news websites have made possible an explosion in citizen activism. Whether they like it or not, the challenges bloggers make to the mainstream media actually help bolster their position, as they will always be a need for “reputable” organizations with the resources and reach of traditional news organizations. Markets thrive on choice, and we’ve already seen the value of competition. However, when news organizations such as AP want to make themselves available to only one player, they’re sealing their destiny in the dustbin of history.

Rush is our leader? God Help Us

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

In a sign that we are indeed nearing the apocalypse, some are chattering that, perhaps in these pre-RNC Winter Meeting days, Rush Limbaugh is the closest thing we have to a leader on the right. And I, for one, could not be less thrilled. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

 

It happened the other day while Obama was visiting with congressional Republicans in an effort to get them to support his economic stimulus package. Said Obama to the lawmakers: “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

On his Monday program, Limbaugh shot back that the president was “obviously more frightened of me than he is of (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell. He’s more frightened of me than he is of, say, (House Minority Leader) John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party.”

It wasn’t that Obama’s mention was mean or personal, analysts said. But in citing Limbaugh as influential, the president of the United States elevated a talk show host to his level – the leader of the free world. And in a leadership vacuum like the one that conservatives find themselves in after last November’s devastating electoral losses, loud voices – like Limbaugh’s with his 13 million weekly listeners – echo even louder.

 

I have the utmost respect for Rush Limbaugh. He was able to rise up from nothing to become on the most recognizable voices on the right. He is able to spin ideas in very folksy turns of phrase and able to coalesce his followers around an issue or politician. One thing he is not, however, is a heavy thinker. He is a conveyor of ideas, yes, but he is not one who thinks into the wee hours of the night about how to solve our national crises. He is also not a political practitioner; he is not into himself able to influence policy or make deals. He is influential–he surely deserves some credit for zero Republicans voting for the stimulus yesterday. At the end of the day, however, he does not care who he offends. 

 

But while an Oval Office shout-out may temporarily elevate a man who refers to himself as El Rushbo, it doesn’t make Limbaugh the de facto leader of the Republican Party or the conservative movement. He is, analysts say, a “conveyer belt” of information, influencer of the wider talk radio universe and an outside-the-Beltway party whip who reins in wayward Republicans – as in those veering toward political moderation.

“Whenever a national party is in search of its identity, its mojo, figures like Rush will fill the vacuum,” said Mike Franc, a vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “But in this situation, he doesn’t fill the idea. He’s more of an idea aggregator.”

 

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Obama=The Tech President?

January 22, 2009 Leave a comment

The Bush and Dean campaigns in 2004 revolutionized the way tech was used in politics, and the Obama campaign built upon the revolutionary rise of social networking to solve the free rider problem (at least for one campaign. Bush didn’t continue to heavily use tech to communicate with voters and the public, but it looks like Obama will (granted, Bush didn’t have a re-election fight ahead of him after ‘o4, but perhaps it could have spared him many of the PR disasters in his second term). 

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