Whither Campaign Blogging?

Like Ezra Klein, a former Pandagon blogger himsef, I was surprised that the Edwards campaign hired Amanda Marcotte to be its blogger. I didn’t read her stuff at Pandagon that often, but on a few occasions that I did, she seemed quite outspoken and aggressive, to the point where I couldn’t see how that would fit with the restraint necessary in a major campaign. Here’s Klein’s take:

Look: I thought the Edwards’ campaign made a surprising choice when it picked up Amanda. She throws elbows, to say the least. And her focuses, and opinions, are not always popular in contemporary American political life. It seemed an act of bravery and conviction, though I wasn’t sure what, exactly, the upside was. But the Edwards campaign chose her. They hired her. She left her blog for the position. And now they’ve got to defend their choice. To back down would either prove that their hiring process was incompetent and they didn’t vet someone with an extensive public record, or that they’ll collapse beneath even moderate pressure from rightwing professionals. Neither is a good look for the new campaign.

It is a tough spot for the campaign now because regardless of what they do, they will anger someone. The liberal netroots are already up in arms over the rumored firing of Marcotte and fellow blogger Melissa McEwan, while Edwards critics will have a field day with Marcotte’s blogging history if she stays. Supposedly the Edwards campaign has a statement forthcoming on the matter.

If they are indeed fired, I can certainly understand the political calculation at play, but I am also dismayed about the implications for future interactions between campaigns and the blogosphere. Bloggers get noticed when they make strident arguments, which sometimes might involve saying things that are deemed impolitic by the world at large. Josh Marshall notes that blog writing can be “edgy” and that campaigns must do their due diligence before making such hires. I worry that such due diligence would preemptively disqualify a lot of my favorite bloggers from ever working for campaigns. An interactive blog can be a messy thing, full of confrontation, flaming, trolling, and the like. It’s not exactly a platform that is conducive to complete message control by a campaign, which might scare campaigns away. I’m afraid we’ll end up with dull staffers posting campaign press releases to “blogs” where there’s either a highly moderated comment section or no comments at all. And no one will want to read it.

So, that’s a long way of saying that while I’m no fan of Amanda Marcotte, I think her firing would be a negative thing. The campaign should try to find a way to distance itself from her previous writings and keep her on. That’s a move that needs to be finessed, and that’s probably been why we’ve been waiting all afternoon to see what official action they will end up taking. This is also something they perhaps should’ve been prepared to deal with in advance.

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