Utah Elected Officials Invited to Blog

by Ray Matthews on September 29, 2004 at 05:20 PM

Most states currently do not provide constituent service blogs for their legislators. One reason is the fear that blogs can be misused. Legislative staff make every effort to offer non-partisan services and information and fear that blogs could be used as state sponsored tools for campaigning.

Most U.S. Representatives and Senators have both official governmental websites and private sites for operating campaigns. The question is, could state governments promote a similar dual model of separate sites/weblogs for constituent services and campaigning?

Elected officials and those running for office have seen how RSS news syndiction can help them spread their message. Howard Dean rose out of obscurity last year using a combination of weblogging and local web meetups to become his party's front runner in the presidential race. Dean and others learned that this technology can even the playing field and allow someone to rapidly organize a grass roots campaign. RSS syndication can help create a dynamic website and produce both email and online newsletters in the same process. With legislative staffs slow to offer the service, there is an inviting market niche for the private sector.

Recognizing this golden opportunity, LaVarr Web, Publisher of UtahPolicy.com today issued an "Invitation to Blog" to elected officials and party leaders wishing to communicate directly to citizens. Mr. Webb writes:

We would like to invite you to become a blogger. UtahPolicy.com is creating the Utah Policymaker Blog and we hope you will be part of it. It is an opportunity for you, as a Utah policymaker, to publish your opinions, thoughts and ideas to a wide audience of opinion leaders. It is an opportunity to participate in an exciting new high-tech communications medium that is becoming a powerful tool in politics, business and in every walk of life.

It's fun and exciting to be a blogger. You are probably aware of how bloggers are credited for toppling the powerful Dan Rather and CBS News. The phenomenon of blogging is growing rapidly and as a leader in Utah you ought to become familiar with this new method of communicating and use it to your advantage. In effect, Utah policymakers will have their own electronic publication in which to communicate with the public.

Some reasons UtahPolicy.com offers as to why elected officials ought to consider blogging include:

  • You can communicate directly to citizens and other policymakers and opinion leaders without having your comments and opinions filtered by the news media.

  • You can talk back to the news media. You can comment on news stories published by newspapers, and magazines and aired by television and radio. You can even link to the original articles.

  • You can promote your pet projects, priorities, legislation, causes, and issues.

  • You can respond to others' comments in the blog, creating a dialog.

  • You can learn how to use an entirely new, and very powerful, communications channel. At some point you might want to create your own personal blog, and this will give you experience.

  • You will be joining millions of other bloggers, some of whom have developed large followings.

  • The Utah Policymaker Blog will become a very popular blog if enough policymakers participate. News reporters will read it for story ideas. It will help set the political agenda of the state. It will become a valuable forum for the exchange of opinions and ideas on public policy issues in Utah.

Utah policymakers interested in the offer should send an e-mail expressing their interest to daily@utahpolicy.com. While the general public will be able to read the blogs, only invited policymakers (i.e. elected and appointed officials and a few key opinion leaders) will be able to publish to it.

This is an example of the union of business and government to promote democracy and inform the citizenry using RSS news syndication. We wish them well in their efforts!


LaVarr Webb posted today in UtahPolicy.com:

"We had a good response to our initial invitation to Utah policymakers to become bloggers. We have a couple dozen people signed up so far, including legislators, city leaders, county leaders and appointed officials. We'll be sending them instructions soon. We want more policymakers to participate, a good cross-section of local, state and federal leaders. To qualify, you need to be an elected official (at any level), or an appointed official at the policymaker level (city manager, department head, etc.). We're not going to be too strict. We've also invited a few other people like the chairs of the political parties. We'll have the actual blog site up on the http://www.utahpolicy.com web site within a day or so and should be ready to post blogs by the first of next week. ...So send a message to daily@utahpolicy.com, if you're a policymaker and you want to participate."

Posted by: Ray Matthews at September 30, 2004 08:11 PM