Friday, July 17, 2009

Techno Politicians – A New Breed of Public Servant

Many eons ago, when I was a print reporter, the only way for politicians and other news makers to get their messages out was through their speeches, media events, and staff. It was a love-hate relationship between us reporter-types, and the spin doctors – I mean press secretaries – working alongside the politician.

Everything that comes out of a politician’s mouth is usually scripted. That script has probably been read, and re-read countless times by their staff, to ensure there aren’t any mistakes in the message being delivered.

When you see a politician on television, answering questions live, all their answers are scripted too. They have been briefed by their handlers how to respond to just about every question you or that television reporter could imagine. It is rare these days to catch ‘em off guard.

What has changed is how direct and informal the messages are becoming, thanks to instant micro blogging sites like Twitter.

Twitter is a cool web-based micro blogging site, which allows peop

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

le to share very brief one-liner-type statements about anything and everything that pops into their heads. You can even follow this blog on Twitter, by adding @jordansdaily to your own feed.

American President Barack Obama uses Twitter, so too does his rival John McCain. The White House has its own Twitter account, which posts pictures and video they capture as they follow the President. Even the Brits are in on the instant online action, you can follow British Prime Minister Gordon Brown by adding @DowningStreet to your Twitter page.

Whether President Obama actually taps out his own “tweets” to send via Twitter on his Blackberry is doubtful. Those messages, as with everything else that comes out of his – and all other politician’s by DavidAll06 via Flickr

offices – is carefully crafted and vetted by the best wordsmiths in the world.

But what is fascinating about this new method of communications is its directness.

Love or hate the news media, one thing journalists do is analyze, discuss and debate the issues. When a politician or other news maker says something, there is usually some sort of discussion, or alternative opinion brought in, to add context to the story, and provide some balance. You may not always agree with those alternative views, but at least they are there for you to think about.

However, when you receive a message in your Twitter feed – or any other live micro blogging site – from a politician or news maker, you are only receiving the information they want you to have. There isn’t anything to counter balance their information with other facts and arguments – all you’re getting is their one-sided version of the story.

It will be interesting over the next few years to see how this new form of instant, direct and non-objective messaging affects world democracies.

Instead of getting all sides of the story from the media, those on the information superhighway may just get the information which they have subscribed too, not even considering the bias, slant or angle that information is taking. Elections of the future may be won or lost by just how well politicians communicate their messages directly to the people, circumventing any potential analysis or debate for those people.

And that could prove dangerous for democracy, as the discussions and debates about not just the people running our world, but the very laws, programs and policies that make our world, could vanish.

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