Thursday, February 8

Being Semi-Public: Marcotte and McEwan

Amanda Marcotte learned a hard lesson when she lost her position on the John Edwards campaign: being a public figure, er, semi-public figure (as I call these growing middle ranks, myself included) is not always what it is cracked up to be. Some people have a knack for it. Others do not.

Despite some quarters trying to claim that Marcotte and Melissa McEwan are being unfairly persecuted as bloggers (they are not), the simple truth is that their decision to be semi-public came with consequences that they didn't expect. The rhetoric that landed them a gig on a presidential bid is the same rhetoric that may cost them their jobs.

The blog cited above, Pandragon, is making this case: "Whatever opinions Melissa and Amanda hold on a variety of political issues, they are completely their own. The fact is that they have used profanity in their posts, and wrote rants that many disagree with, but their forums are about personal expression and opinion, not journalism or op-eds for a major paper."

Wrong. It has always been common practice for political campaigns to pass on campaign people who are known to have made extreme, disparaging public statements despite their perceived talent.

Pandragon also says Glen Greenwood, author and former New York City litigator, hits the mark when he wrote: "I do not know of many bloggers, or citizens generally, who do not have some views that would be offensive to large groups of people and who periodically express those views in less than demure ways, but if that is going to be the standard, we ought to apply it universally to all bloggers who are affiliated with political campaigns."

Invalid. When campaigns consider someone who is semi-public for the team, it only makes sense for the campaign to weigh how many votes could be lost due to "views that would be offensive to large groups of people" as opposed to votes won for any other reason, which is why Greenwood's "Hynes" political spin doesn't hold water.

Look, I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong as much as I am saying that if you strive to become a semi-public figure with heated, passionate, or bigoted remarks, you can expect that the loss of privacy is the price of admission. Good journalists have known this for a long time whereas some bloggers don't seem to get it.

Good journalists appreciate that the truth — not opinions — will be their shield if they eventually want to move onto another career. Likewise, even good op-ed writers temper their rants with reasoned arguments. Not so with some bloggers, who somehow think they are exempt from any accountability or responsibility when they write. It is delusional to think so.

For example, it would be silly for 15-minutes-of-fame-are-over blogger Spocko to apply for a position at Disney any time in the near future, after he berated the company for months and months over what its subsidiary KFSO did (or did not do, upon reflection of how much was taken out of context).

Likewise, it would be equally perplexing to think that I would be a top pick for a future Gavin Newsom campaign after yesterday's post despite my experience on city, county, and state campaigns. Of course, this post was an exception because I usually limit any observation to the "verb" and not the "subject."

In sum, it is absurd to think that any public opinion posted on a blog could never potentially interfere with your career, regardless of the degree to which you achieve exposure. Employers, political or otherwise, are becoming much more savvy in searching and considering blog entries and Myspace profiles in an effort to hire the best employees. Sometimes it might not matter what you have written. Sometimes it might. As a blogger, whether you want to consider this or roll the dice is up to you, but don't cry foul play if it bites you on the backside.

Specifically for Marcotte and McEwen, what they have written seems to matter for three reasons: 1. For Edwards, faith and family is part of the message. 2. For Edwards, it doesn't seem to make sense to keep people who aspire to capture more spotlight than the campaign, especially because their opinions greatly distract from Edwards' message. 3. They didn't offer to resign and/or exonerate Edwards, which left him in a no-win situation (if he keeps them, he's wrong ... if he fires them, he's wrong).

Hmmm... if they really cared about Edwards, they would resign (unless urged to stay on). It's the right thing to do as opposed to being right.

Digg!

2 comments:

Rich on 2/9/07, 6:50 AM said...

"My writings on my personal blog, Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics." — Amanda Marcotte

"Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way." — Melissa McEwen

Insincere quotes from Marcotte and McEwen in a joint Edwards statement, illustrating they mean to bark, not bite. It's also the wiggle room they needed to stay on board.

Rich on 2/9/07, 8:43 AM said...

Given John Edwards has chosen to retain these bloggers, we will be classifying it as a living case study with more on Monday. — Rich

Post a Comment

 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template