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Communication and Technology

2011/03/20

We’ve all seen it; a candidate starts a blog, a twitter account, or a Facebook page with regular posts during the campaign, and a year or more later, the last post on it is still dated less than a week after the election.  While I don’t believe that many officeholders intentionally neglect their online presence, I do feel that very few at the local or state levels have a proper appreciation for the power of the internet in making everyone’s lives easier when it comes to mass communication.

Not that many years ago, finding out what would be discussed in a council meeting involved going down to city hall and looking at the bulletin board within 72 hours before the meeting.  Now, one can simply check the city’s website for a copy of the agenda.  This simplifies the task for both the users, who needn’t make a special trip on Saturday afternoon to see what’s happening at Tuesday’s meeting, but also for the city staff, who don’t have to keep so many extra copies of the agenda around to provide to those who want to take one home.

Likewise, I see the internet as a powerful tool for any public figure; most business websites have a FAQ section for the simple reason that answering the most commonly asked questions up front reduces the time that staff spends answering those questions.  This is also why virtually every Federal level elected official has a website and posts frequent updates to it; even with a large staff, answering questions from hundreds or thousands of constituents every day is a time-consuming task.  By freeing up the time normally spent answering those routine questions, more time is made available to provide in-depth answers to less common and more detailed inquiries.  The same methods are easily applied at a local level, with similar – if somewhat less dramatic – results.

In addition to time savings and convenience, providing updates online also reduces the problem of unasked questions.  For every person who asks a question, there are almost certainly many more with the same question who do not ask, for whatever reason.  Making information readily available and searchable online allows these people to find the answer quickly and easily.  This is an additional advantage of the blog format; when a question is asked in the comments and answered either in the comments or in a new post, the answer is available to all readers immediately and can be found in a simple search months or even years later.

Finally, given the current technology, accessibility is greatly enhanced by internet-based communications.  Some of you are probably reading this post on your cellular phones while sitting in a restaurant or in line at the grocery store.  Those who have subscribed to the blog via mobile email addresses or RSS news apps were notified within seconds after the post went live, rather than having to check back at the site daily to see if there’s any new content.  Your typing speed has become the primary factor in how quickly you can ask a question or give feedback, rather than the speed of the postal service or even a messenger on a fast horse.  Just a few years ago, for a writer to have such instant access to readers and vice versa was completely unheard of; now it is generally taken for granted.

In summary, while face to face meetings are the most personal means of communication, and even the handwritten letter still has its place, the internet is now the normal means of getting information to one or many recipients, and the many advantages of open, easy to use, low cost publishing methods like blogging for candidates, officeholders, and anyone else with an interest in local politics are far too significant to overlook.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. MarcyT permalink
    2011/03/23 07:55

    Nicely put, Joe. Using the internet helped to elect our president so no reason why it shouldn’t work for others!!

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