Showing posts with label computer mediated communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computer mediated communication. Show all posts

The South Carolina Twitter Caucus kicks off

If you're in the Midlands and want to learn more about how to use new media in broadening your communication outreach, you may want to check out Wesley Donehue's newest initiative: the South Carolina Twitter Caucus.

Even though the 2011 legislative session is still in its infancy, legislators of all types are running to us with their Internet needs. Everyone knows that the people expect their elected officials to have a robust web presence so that the lines of communication remain open at all times. And guess what? Social media is the king of modern communication.

For this reason, we are pumped to announce the first South Carolina Twitter Caucus! Due to the constant requests we receive from representatives, we decided to host a special breakfast/seminar at our office every other Wednesday at 8:00am. We will present unique Internet strategies that allow people to enhance their brand and gain a faithful following of "brand activists".

So if you find yourself near 1202 Main Street in downtown Columbia next Wednesday morning, please swing by our third floor office for some food, drinks and Internet fun.

Getting personal: Why the Blogland won't go there

The Blogland's mission is simple: to engage in thoughtful discussion, sharing information that we think readers will want to read to inform, advocate and sometimes entertain. To keep the pot stirred with a growing audience and increased level of influence, it's not easy. One of the most important challenges for the Blogland is to keep it factual, fair, and respectful.

Part of this effort means avoiding engaging in the ongoing personal slimefest that seems to be all the rage in South Carolina media circles. In recent weeks, news media - both new and traditional - have focused on personal missteps by family members of South Carolina politicos. Over the last two years, what's personal has become the stuff of headlines all too often.

My opinion of the approach can be expressed in a comment which I shared with a so-called reporter last summer: "What part of my life is nobody's business don't you understand?"

It must have been a slow news day at WIS

Bloggers are accused of being one-sided, unprofessional, and not living up to journalistic standards. So when we find sloppy and unprofessional reporting by traditional news media outlets who are supposed to be setting the standards for journalism, we find such claims amusing.

Last week, WIS TV reporter Jack Kuenzie decided to grant a disgruntled former employee a forum to air his grievances against his former employer. In this story, Victor Harris, a Midlands resident, alleged he was fired from an unnamed Midlands trucking company. In the story, Harris claimed, without presenting any evidence, that he was fired for refusing to drive more than the permitted number of hours. He also alleged that safe practices were regularly ignored by his former employer.

So where did the story go wrong? Lack of fairness, lack of evidence and a clear lack of understanding of the trucking workforce demand:

Comedy and Power Point design tips

Part of teaching public speaking involves teaching these students how to do effective presentations with Power Point.

One of my students shared this video from the website "Technically Funny", where Don McMillian makes comedy out of office technology. He's also got a YouTube channel, which has a lot of good videos, including this one where he makes fun of poor Power Point design:

Leading Ladies of State Politics in Columbia, Part 2

Part two of today's conference included a panel discussion on blogging and it's impact upon news and politics, featuring yours truly, SC blog pioneer and Democratic new media strategist Laurin Manning and the Mack Daddy of state political blogs - Will Folks.

In a freewheeling discussion, we shared our insights and experiences with the audience. Some of the most notable points raised were:

  • Three things not to do: Waste our time with non-news, be a hypocrite, or lie to us.
  • Agreed that bloggers are the news, but maybe not journalists.
  • Encouraged the audience that if they get into blogging, to find a niche and write about their passions.
  • Cautioned that anonymous blogs don't have much credibility, nor should candidates and campaigns respond to every post and comment on a blogsite.
  • If you or your candidate is getting attacked by bloggers, you must be a threat.
  • Don't sell yourself as a "great woman candidate", but rather qualify yourself as the best candidate without regard for gender.

As always, it's an honor and a great learning experience to share the stage with such great talent with such extensive background, as well as to engage in discussions with those attending the event. It was also an honor to get to speak to such a passionate audience and share ideas and experiences. Thanks to Deb Sofield and Barbara Rackes, as well as the rest of the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics for their hospitality and a well-organized event.

Blogger transparency

As many of my readers know, I'm helping teach a graduate course for George Washington University. The course deals in ethics for public relations and public affairs, and is part of their Political and PR management Master's programs.

Among this week's readings is a news story from Business Week,
"Wal-Mart vs. the Blogosphere", which looked at how a blog supposed written by a couple which was a fan of the retail chain ended up being unmasked as a corporate public relations tactic:

It all started last month, when a folksy blog called Wal-Marting Across America was set up. The site featured the musings of a couple known only as Jim and Laura as they drove cross country in an RV, and included regular interviews with Wal-Mart workers, who were dependably happy about the company and their working conditions. wrote the first exposé about the blog. The story shot down speculation that Jim and Laura weren't real people, identifying the woman as Laura St. Claire, a freelance writer and an employee at the U.S. Treasury department. But it also disclosed that Wal-Mart was paying plenty for the couple's support, including money for renting the RV, gas, and fees for writing the blog (see, 10/9/06, "Wal-Mart's Jim and Laura: The Real Story").

This certainly touched on a point often faced in the South Carolina political blogosphere, where a number of bloggers also are also employed in the political field:

  • Adam Fogle, who writes The Palmetto Scoop, is employed by Richard Quinn and Associates. That might explain his regular praise of Henry McMaster as well his being the only person in the state willing to say good things about Senator Lindsay Graham. Both Graham and McMaster are Quinn clients. Fogle also enjoys dishing out shots at a competing consulting firm via The Scoop.
  • Wes Donehue, who doesn't blog as much, works with the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Jim DeMint, and is a partner in Under The Power Lines, a political netroots consulting firm. It's no secret that he praises both, but he's also got a lot of useful insights about the net and politics on his personal blog as well.
  • Will Folks, who runs what is probably the state's most-influential site, FITSNews, has worked with candidates, including Governor Sanford (as well as worked on Sanford's staff), but nobody seems to know how his bills are paid these days.
Unlike the two implicated in the Wal-Mart advocacy blogging scheme, you know where these guys are coming from, so you can apply the necessary grain(s) of salt when you read their sites.

In the interests of full disclosure, I've been involved in politics for over two decades across the state, in campaign and Republican Party roles from grassroots to managerial. When I speak via this blog, it's as an interested citizen and veteran activist. Not only that, but the process of exploring issues and individuals has taught me a lot and allowed me to make a lot of new friends - from ordinary citizens who've read my blog to veteran politicos - and that's all the reward I need to keep writing.

My paycheck comes from a construction company where I am the Corporate Communication manager, and am also involved in human resources, safety and governmental relations. Much of my company's bread and butter is in highway construction these days, which is publicly funded. I've opted to keep such subject material off my blog, to avoid the appearance that I'm blogging for hire.

By knowing what I do for a living, you get the assurance that I'm not an insider trying to promote a client, but being on the outside means I don't always get the big story leads that those who work in the field might, so there's a trade-off.

As long as you know what our angle is up front, you can make your own decisions about what you're reading. That's the kind of transparency and disclosure you deserve to have from those who are trying to inform and influence in the blogosphere.

By the way - thank you for reading.

Digital communication in the workplace

Anna-Fiona Cooke, who I recently featured as a new graduate of the Masters in Communication program at CofC, will be taking some of her research regarding the impacts and benefits of digital communication in the workplace national this fall.

Lives today are strung together by fast interactions, prompt responses and immediate results. Naturally, these modern communicative tools are welcomed in the workplace. Cooke, a communication graduate student, explored this in a research paper entitled "Type. Send. Communicate." What began as a project for her communication management seminar revealed how the instant exchange of ideas is reshaping the workforce.

Cooke (pictured here) found that Generation Y workers - twenty-somethings who have depended on cell phones and laptops since high school - use technology to increase productivity at work. Meanwhile, their Generation X managers - born between 1965 and 1980, an era of Pac-Man games and eight-track players - faced challenges as a result.

Over the span of a month, Cooke observed and interviewed workers at a local small business. She asked participants when they preferred digital communication over personal methods, how often they used them and why. "Many of the interviewees admitted using text and instant messaging for everything, from asking questions about projects to where to go to lunch," Cooke says. Next, she conducted several personal interviews with executives in large businesses, including a financial sales manager in Atlanta and a human resources consultant in Columbus, Ohio.

She found that using technology increased proficiency. The young wave of employees who grew up using word-processing and instant messenger accomplished their tasks quickly and, in turn, wanted recognition. "They expected more breaks or to go home when their goals for the day were complete instead of working a traditional 9-to-5 day," says Cooke.

That's her in the picture.

Her research was timely, relevant, and well-presented at last fall's conference of the Carolinas Communication Association, where she won their Mary Jarrard award for best graduate research paper. I expect her work will be well-received at the NCA conference as well.

Congress goes You Tube

Today being April Fool's Day (and you know what - the General Assembly is in session), we thought it was a terrible day to be serious. So we'll share this Comedy Central clip where Lewis Black offers his unique perspective on Congress going to YouTube:

Podcasting anyone?

When I got my Zune player, I started out with loading up over 6000 songs from hundreds of CDs in my personal collection. Then I got into podcasting, and I'm having a ball with it.

Since I drive quite a bit to jobsites and here and there and elsewhere, I've found they're a good way to feed myself more information.

What podcasts am I listening to on a regular basis?

... so as for the rest of you in the great big Blogworld, what do YOU listen to?

On social networking "friends"

A while back I was turned on to Meryl Runion's "Speak Strong" email newsletter, which discusses "power phrases" - words and phrases which can help motivate, connect and inspire others, as well as "poison phrases" - words and phrases which can turn people off or create hurt feelings, often unintentionally.

This week's email makes an interesting point about how social networking sites have transformed the meaning of the word "friends":

When I accept requests on a social networking site, often from people I don't know, they tell me,

- Congratulations. You have three new friends.

Really? Will they check on me when I'm going through challenges, celebrate my wins with me and share their deepest secrets?

Social networking "friends" cheapen the word, and sugest that all there is to friendship is to agree to be in each other's network.

My Zune ROCKS!

Recently, I decided that a good companion for my return to cycling was to pick up a Microsoft Zune player. Specifically the 120 gig model. I put my hundreds of CDs on there, comprising about 300 hours of music programming, and have a lot of room on there.

What I've made Ebaying CDs from my connection has paid back for the player, with plenty more unsold ... so yeah, Blogland readers can expect some giveaway contests real soon.

I'm sure nobody's going to be much surprised at the content of my player, but if you run into me in my car or on my bike, check it and maybe you'll be surprised ... or then again, maybe you won't.

Screw your loved ones - go buy one for yourself and enjoy.

The Bloggers - Righteous Dudes of the Year, 2008

This year's winner of the year award goes to a varied group of individuals who did much to shake up the landscape of South Carolina politicals - the electronic motley crew known as bloggers.

For a long time, the process of deciding winners and losers in state government has been a largely controlled process, where well-heeled special interests, powerful politicians and mainstream news media picked who would wield power and those who wouldn't. But in 2008, that grip was challenged by bloggers, who used their electronic talents, some creativity, perspectives outside of the Columbia insider realm, and more than a little gutsiness, to shake things up in Columbia.

Will Folks showed plenty of guts when he took on GOP State Senator Randy Scott, publicizing his DUI arrest, including jailhouse records which were ordered muzzled by a judge. Those content of those tapes, which crossed over into mainstream media, did much to create unflattering public impressions of the Senator, which did much to undo any potential political gain from his acquittal.

We did our share to contribute to the process. Our coverage of several judicial races helped push one candidate considered a longshot to an easy victory and shined the spotlight on two other candidates, who later withdrew. We helped push Representative Shannon Erickson's Lauren Gentry Act through the State Senate, where it flew through in just three weeks, and then with the help of other blogs, brought out her Democratic opponent's arrest record.

Bloggers from across the political spectrum shined the spotlight on the power play between House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Midlands State Represenatives Nathan Ballentine and Nikki Haley, and then rallied in support of Haley's legislation requiring recorded voting on legislation.

Increasingly, political bloggers are building trans-partisan alliances based upon specific issues, as well as other factors such as personalities and non-political interests. As the influence of bloggers rises, it will be interesting to see how these new approaches influence the overall political picture.

Newspapers regularly picked up our discussions (and amazing they even started giving us credit) in their own news coverage. Ian Leslie at the Beaufort Gazette (who has since moved on) and Jason Spencer at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal stand out as those who have given us the most respect, but there are a lot of other outlets who have been doing a good job as well.

We're not just influencing what goes on in the insular world of state politics. Many bloggers, including Folks, Ross Shealy, and ourselves, regularly speak to interested groups and lecture at schools and colleges around the state. In doing so, we're shaping how politics works on the inside as well as how people view it from the outside.

Probably the single biggest sign of the rising influence and credibility of bloggers is the Monday editorial content of The State, which has a section which quotes bloggers on current state issues.

In the year 2008, bloggers have come a long way in contributing and influencing the political process in South Carolina. In doing so, they've clearly earned the Righteous Dudes of the Year title.

Columbia College interview

Hats off to Jesika Brooks, a Columbia College student, who is writing for a class via a series of blog postings, including "Election 2.0", which looked at how new media impacted the 2008 elections, as well as how it will continue to impact national politics.

It's great to see students who are willing to do their homework and show us new media types some respect. We're also flattered that the Blogland was able to participate in her work Go give her article a read!

Beyond Election Day 2008: Declaring a winner

Regardless of who wins the White House next Tuesday night, the biggest winner of Election 2008 won’t be John McCain or Barack Obama, nor the party which controls Congress. The biggest winners of the 2008 election will be those whose pioneering efforts shifted political campaigning on the Internet from the fringes of American political culture into its mainstream.

In the 2004 elections, those who waged politics in the virtual world, such as Howard Dean and the blogger that debunked Dan Rather’s now-infamous Bush memo were like the Phil Sheridans and J.E.B. Stuart of the American Civil War - raiders who struck at the vulnerable flanks and rear of the battlefield, sometimes affecting the larger picture, sometimes not. This year, they are now among the Shermans and Stonewall Jacksons of the American political landscape – the leaders and orchestrators of powerful forces whose ranks and operations played key roles in the overall plans of the war.

We should not be surprised those who campaign via the Internet become the Grants and Lees of the 2010 and 2012 elections – the overall commanders of all the forces fighting for their cause. As with any profession, those who are successful at the lower levels – who often pioneer new tactics and approaches – ascend to the higher ranks. Someone who started as a blogger become a national campaign manager, or someone who started out organizing via MySpace or Facebook chair the DNC or RNC.

In his book
“Being Digital”, penned in the mid-1990s, Nicholas Negroponte described the early years of the Internet explosion, in which he predicted that these changes were inevitable and that radical changes upon how people communicate were soon to come:

The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable … Why now? Because the change is also exponential - small differences of yesterday can have suddenly shocking consequences tomorrow.

The difference between the electronic world and traditional campaign methodologies is stark – television ads and direct mail pieces which take days to produce and distribute to audiences are losing their influence upon voters, as web-delivered content, which can be rolled out in a matter of hours, wields increasing amounts of influence. While television campaigns have gradually shrunk from minutes in length to thirty seconds or even less, web videos on campaign websites are often one to three minutes long. This suggests that voters who skim newspapers, toss the direct mail pieces after a cursory glane, and won’t sit still for a 60 second tv spot will go online and spend several minutes watching an online video or reading a blog posting. This shift represents a profound change in the landscape of political communication.

The other effects of political activity on the Internet have also matured: the ability to recruit, organize and rally supporters of candidates, serve as primary sources of fundraising, and to influence the agendas of both traditional and new media outlets. It’s now difficult to imagine how today’s political candidates for offices higher than county dogcatcher can wage successful campaigns without incorporating internet tactics and tools into their campaigns.

In looking at the South Carolina political landscape, few will likely remember when yours truly authored the now-forgotten Evacuate Hodges website. While that website represented something new to South Carolina politics in its time – the use of the internet as a primary source of information dissemination – blogs, aggregator websites, comment sections in the web-posted new stories of traditional media websites are now commonplace, wielding considerable influences upon electioneering and public policy in South Carolina.

When you think about it, this rapid evolution and growth of influence sounds a lot like the changes Negroponte predicted. Today, Palmetto State politicians, strategists, lobbyists, and interest group leaders routinely seek the support of online political activists, and seldom a day goes by without some traditional news media outlet quoting (often without due credit) some website author or blogger.

The consequences of these changes are not just important for our own nation. American political tactics and strategies have both direct involvement and indirect influences upon campaigns waged in many of the world’s democracies, as what is proven effective in American campaigns is quickly exported elsewhere to win elections. Those who change how campaigns are waged here will end up influencing how democracy is practiced on a global scale.

Whether you’re talking about South Carolina, or the national political scene, this is the year the change from atoms to bits produced fundamental changes upon how we campaign for public office, as well as how we govern. These profound and lasting effects which will reach farther and last longer than the tenure of the next President. While John McCain or Barack Obama may shape the course of a nation, netroots culture will shape the future of democratic governance on a global scale. In doing so, those who have moved internet-based politics from the fringes to the mainstream have won the greatest victory of the 2008 elections.

Conflicts of interest?

Recently, we've seen some discussion about bloggers who cross their work with their blogging.

Rest assured, it's not the first time some blogger has accused another of mixing blogging as a form of news media with blogging as a form of paid advertising. Inevitably, such situations risk creating the appearance of conflicts of interest ... but even worse, they confuse the heck out of people, making them wonder who is backing who, who is paying who, and what is the real agenda of a given blogsite.

All we want to know about Columbia is who will pick up our bar tab when we're in town?

Seriously, folks ... it's one thing to have an opinion, support a candidate or an issue and use your blogsite to express that support. It's another to use your blog as paid advertising for candidates and issues. But either way, it's a free country, and we figure most people are smart enough to take what they read with a grain of salt.

Either way, as long as people know where the bottom line is, there's no harm done.

To help cut down on potential conflicts, we made it an early point to avoid discussion of SCDOT-related issues. Why? Because our employer is a construction general contractor who does a lot of business with the state. We could share our opinions about issues related to the SCDOT, or even local sales tax referenda over county-funded road programs, but we're pretty sure what we said would come across as biased and insincere.

In the case of issues such as requiring that bituminous curbing be used under guardrails on elevated shoulders or the benefits of using cement stabilization with full-depth reclamation of rural dirt roads ... such discussion would come across as biased, insincere ... as well as really darned boring.

We understand that some political bloggers also work in the political realm for a living, and as such, may have a vested interest in speaking out in favor of issues and candidates. While we disagree with those who believe their employment disqualifies them from being able to speak (and blog), we do believe that it's fair that you know who we are and where we're coming from.

This should go for those who work in politics and government, as well as those (like the Blogland) who are private citizens who enjoy sounding off about those subjects.

Count on who? More on judicial qualifications

Late breaking news from the Lowcountry as News Channel 2's 11 o'clock broadcast discussed what has been old news in the Blogland for over a week - critical assessments by the South Carolna Bar of two Lowcountry judicial candidates: Charleston Magistrate Linda Lombard and attorney Michael DuPree:

The South Carolina Bar Association says out of 46 South Carolina judicial candidates, Charleston magistrate Linda Lombard is the only one considered unqualified to run for office.

She was in the running for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court.

However, after a judicial review committee interview of more than 30 bar members, the opinion was that Lombard lacks the experience and temperment required for position of circuit court judge.

More proof that if you want late-breaking inside news in this state, don't Count on Two, count on us in new media types to bring it to you, and MSM types to bring it to you after it's safe to stick their necks out or we've done their homework for them.

Or both.

This news story focuses upon Lombard's plight, having been the only judicial candidate found not qualified, and only gives passing mention to DuPree, who in spite of a history of attacking police, Bar members citing his volatile temperament and his self-confessed anger management issues ... is somehow still considered qualified.

Given that the 48 page Bar report was quite lengthy (we read it, so we know), we can understand the need for brevity, which is why each candidate was given a rather modest summary. But in the case of the two candidates of whom they were most criticia: Lombard and DuPree, we believe it would have been best if they would have provided more information to support their concerns.

In case you haven't read the report, and need help sleeping at night, click here to see it.

Maybe the whole "right to know" concept is a little radical for them, but in light of the other black eyes our judicial system has taken recently, we believe a little transparency may help provide some much-needed damage control.

We're disappointed they couldn't do better, and we're also disappointed - once again - with the folks in the MSM for either scooping us without giving us due credit, or taking so long to get around to this story.

Changing news media readership

This story from the Public Relations Society of America discusses the changing news-reading habits of American news audiences, showing the continuing shift of audiences from print media to online news sources:

The New York Times stories reported that “circulation declines of American newspapers continued over the spring and summer, as sales across the industry fell almost 3 percent compared with the year before.”

These figures were from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). A “growing shift of readers to the Internet” was blamed for the drop in circulation.

The other story was from Reuters, which reported a Harris Poll revealed that four out of five adults in the United States now go online. According to the survey of 2,062 adults, 79 percent, or about 178 million, spend "an average 11 hours a week on the Internet.”

For those of us who are communicators on the net, these shifts play in our hands, if we're smart enough to see the trends and take full advantage of the opportunities they present.

Click here to read more ... and as always, your thoughts are welcome.

A good example of a bad PR campaign

Bruce Landis with the Providence (R.I.) Journal brings us an excellent example of a poorly-planned public relations campaign from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which attempted to hype their recently-completed Interstate 195 relocation project. Their well-intentioned efforts, which aimed to avoid the urban project being associated with the Boston "Big Dig" quagmire, were poorly planned and stumbled in execution, ruining a good opportunity to gain the RIDOT the kind of positive publicity most public agencies would kill for.

To help, we've highlighted the goofs in bold red italics:

DOT spends $500,000 to avoid a ‘Little Dig’
01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 by Bruce Landis

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Partly to avoid having its biggest construction project maligned, the state Department of Transportation is spending $500,000 on an energetic public-relations campaign to trumpet the $610-million relocation of part of Route 195 and brand it with the name “Iway.”

The DOT’s campaign had been largely successful, despite massive delays on the stretch’s first evening commute last week — a problem that got progressively better as the week went on.

The DOT called last month “Iway October” in hopes that the project would open then, but it missed by a few days. For the last two years, the agency has issued a multimedia stream of publicity ranging from an “Iway” logo, with arches like those of the new Providence River Bridge, to decks of cards, numerous media events, a slogan (“Yours. Mine. Ours.”), and even promotional podcasts in two languages.

The $500,000, most of it from the federal government, comes to almost $95 per foot of new road.

Why focus a four-year public-relations campaign on attaching a made-up name to a one-mile stretch of highway that’s only a short piece of another, much longer highway?

Fear that people would start calling it something else, in particular the “Little Dig,” a backhanded reference to the Boston highway project. The “Big Dig” capped a history of cost overruns and delays last year, when a woman died because a poorly built tunnel ceiling fell on her car.

“We wanted to name it, and not have somebody else name it something less fortunate,” said Dana Alexander Nolfe, the DOT’s chief public affairs officer. She said she had started hearing “Little Dig” before the DOT launched the Iway campaign almost exactly two years ago.

The contract has cost $186,000 so far, Nolfe said. That includes money spent on numerous efforts other than publicity and “branding” the project, including widely publicized safety information and arrangements for highway closures and detours forced by major construction around and over two interstate highways.

It’s not clear how vigorously or how skillfully the DOT checked the Internet for other Iways. Lately, Nolfe has been swamped with work getting ready for the road’s opening last Sunday, and the ensuing traffic jams.

There are some other “Iways” on the Web.

For instance, there’s the New Delhi, India-based, which claims it has more than 3,300 cyber cafes in more than 150 cities. “Be an iway surfer,” the iway company urges.

There’s also the book, I-Way Robbery: Crime on the Internet.

The DOT is proud of its use of podcasts, which are digital media files intended for download to computers and portable media players. The DOT’s include video, music and narration extolling the virtues of the new highway.

On YouTube, the sprawling video Web site, the DOT’s podcasts are jostling for attention with several using the same name.

For example, the year-old video “Iway Farm” opens with the message, “Die Iway Die.” That Iway is an ax-swinging warrior who battles in the multiplayer role-playing game Guild Wars. He can deflect arrows and has the peculiar habit of carrying pets into battle. The video that starts with “Die, Iway, Die” ends with the message, “This Has Been An Anti Iway Production.”

That’s OK, Nolfe said. “We didn’t expect to be the only ones on the planet with an Iway. It’s new to Rhode Island.”

Responding to the PR campaign, journalists regularly drove up an embankment off Allens Avenue to what must be the most attractive venue for a news conference in Rhode Island — the new Providence River Bridge, with a great view down Providence Harbor. There and in news releases, the DOT has announced things, re-announced them, and sometimes announced its own announcements.

Take the podcasts, for which the DOT says it has been billed $52,202 so far.

In mid-September, the DOT announced a “premiere showing” Oct. 1 of a dozen podcasts, which would be released in English and Spanish, promoting the new section of highway.

On Oct. 1, it announced that the podcasts would be released, four at a time, during the following three weeks. DOT Director Jerome F. Williams was quoted saying, “This is an exciting time for RIDOT.”

In an otherwise-undated October memo on its Web site, the DOT announced that “RIDOT Enters the Age of New Media,” and explained that podcasts are not “just for 20-somethings.”

In fact, it said, “Many of our parents and even grandparents own computers and media players.”

On Oct. 9, the DOT announced that it had “launched a series of 12 bilingual Iway podcasts last week,” and that podcasts numbers three and four were released that day. Williams was quoted saying the podcasts “break new ground for Rhode Island.”

On Oct. 15, the DOT announced that it had now issued all 12 podcasts, with the last four going out that day.

The campaign is part of a contract with Duffy & Shanley, the Providence advertising, marketing and public-relations firm whose founding partner, David A. Duffy, has been a political ally of Governor Carcieri. The governor made Duffy head of his transition team in 2002 and later appointed him to the state Convention Center Authority.

The contract runs through October 2008, with an option to renew for a fifth year. Included in the contract is what the DOT describes as “branding.” In a memo, the agency cast branding in advertising terms, saying it “creates a measure of consumer awareness for a product” and will “positively position the project with the public,” in the process creating a “valuable asset for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.”

As for “Iway,” the memo said, “The name is simple, clear, and most importantly … memorable.”

The DOT’s original goal, avoiding the nickname “Little Dig,” has been a smashing success. There are tens of thousands of references to “little dig” on the Web, but most of them are about being snarky, and only a tiny number about construction in Providence.

The DOT has done even better in the pages of The Providence Journal, with just two references to “Little Dig,” one in February in a real estate section “neighborhood of the week” article about Fox Point, and another one-sentence reference in a column the same month.

“That’s great,” Nolfe said. “I’ve done my job.”

On the other hand, using the name “Iway” set the DOT up for something that could be worse. After a few of the miles-long backups triggered by the new highway’s opening, one commuter coined a play on words that fit easily in a newspaper headline: “Iwait.”

McCain looks to fall campaign with Health Care reform

If GOP Presidential candidate John McCain was struggling to stay in the race for the GOP nomination, one couldn’t tell that in Wednesday’s blogger-only tele-conference. Confident, focused, and thoughtful, the Arizona senator took on questions from bloggers across the country.

Looking beyond the GOP primary season, McCain worked to define himself clearly on the issue of health care reform with his audience. While the issue of health care rates relatively low with GOP primary voters in polling, it is a top issue among independent and Democratic voters. Being able to appeal to these voters on a key swing issue will be crucial for GOP victory in a fall election where fewer voters identify themselves as Republicans than in recent years, and overall enthusiasm among the GOP voter base remains low.

Fielding questions from bloggers across the country, he contrasted his plan from that of Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination:

One of the major issues is the difference between my approach and Hillary Clinton’s approach on health care.

These differences were defined as focusing on working to control health care costs and work to rein in those factors he felt were responsible for those increases, as well as make sure that health care costs are affordable so it is able to everyone.

"I believe that we need more choices and access, not more government programs," he said, alleging that government intervention was not the answer. "Are we going to be more and more like France while President Sarkozy is trying to dismantle what has hurt the French economy?"

McCain was concerned about the potential impact of these programs on the size of the federal budget. "When I see all these proposals out there, my question is who pays?", he asked. "We continue to create these things which are basically unfunded liabilities for future generations."

Campaign representative B.J. Boling pointed me to the McCain health care information webpage:

Our special thanks to B.J. Boling with the McCain campaign for the invite.

Is the Internet destroying political discourse?

Some thoughts from the website of the Public Relations Society of America about the impact of the internet upon political discourse:

Our country’s political discourse is fracturing in the information age, says University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, author of the book 2.0, an update of his 2001 As writes, Sunstein acknowledges that the Internet has benefited democracy in many ways, but argues that if new technology gives us unprecedented access to information, it also provides more ways to avoid information we don’t like and that makes our views more extreme.

To read more, click here.

Your thoughts ... ?