Final project: New media, new politics

Campaigning is no longer about just knocking on doors and making phone calls – candidates know social media now plays a major role in interacting with voters. They are active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Dan Winslow, Republican candidate for the United States Senate and current Massachusetts State Representative, acknowledges that politicians’ personal use of social media sites can get them into some trouble. Winslow himself ran into this problem in March after the Republican debate at Stonehill College.

“One of the criticisms of me at the debate was that I’m too theatrical,” Winslow told me during a phone interview. “Janet Wu [the moderator, WCBV Channel 5 senior political reporter] said that theatrics were ‘un-senatorial.’”

After the debate, Winslow took to Twitter and tweeted that America has a history of theatrics.

“After I sent that tweet I received a lot of negative feedback from Tea Party members,” he said. “They got upset and thought that I was making fun of them. And then conservatives got upset that I was supposedly aligning myself with the Tea Party.”

The Pew Research Center released a study in October 2012 that found 20 percent of social media users have used the tools to follow elected officials and candidates for office. Some 32 percent of the conservative Republicans who use social media follow officials on social media and 27 percent of liberal Democrats who use social media do so.

Candidates for the Massachusetts United States Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry after his appointment to Secretary of State by President Barack Obama are using social media sites to get their message out to the people of the Bay State.

Winslow said he finds social sites like Twitter to be essential in his political career, regardless of the potential dangers.

The former chief counsel to Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Scott Brown himself tweets and posts to his social media web pages – interacting with supporters and critics alike.

“When you follow Barack Obama on Twitter, you usually aren’t getting tweets from the President himself, unless they’re signed –BO,” Winslow commented. “But when you follow me, you’re really getting me.”

Cynthia Needham, The Boston Globe political editor, said that candidates interacting with voters on social media sites is a big reason for journalists themselves to hop on the Twitter and Facebook bandwagon.

“Two and a half years ago, at my old job, we were not allowed to use Twitter,” Needham said. “Now I couldn’t imagine doing my job without it.” Needham previously worked at The Providence Journal.

Reporters, Needham told me from the Globe newsroom, use Twitter and Facebook to follow politicians, staffers, and other experts in the field.

“A lot of times candidates will post unofficial campaign stops on Facebook; a staffer will get into an argument with a staffer from another campaign on Twitter; and other journalists and experts will post breaking news,” Needham said.

Needham acknowledges that social media has changed the relationship between politicians and the press, but not in the way one would think.

“It has increased the conversation,” she said. “Politicians are engaging the media online in ways they never did before. It’s literally a 24-hour back and forth between the two.”

Evan England, vice-chair for programming and policy for the Young Democrats of Massachusetts, said that he saw this 24-hour back and forth on political campaigns he’s worked on.

“Sites like Twitter provide an instantaneous leak of information,” England told me over the phone. “Social media has kind of politicians to skip over the press release.”

Winslow, Needham, and England recognized the significance of blogs as well.

Winslow, who reads and, said that if he wants to try an idea out without formally sending a press release or having a press event he’ll test the idea on a site like BlueMassGroup.

“The interesting thing about BlueMassGroup is that a lot of mainstream journalists follow it,” he said. “I can plant a seed in the comments section and see if they go for it.”

Needham confirmed that both of the blogs Winslow mentioned are regularly read by political reporters.

None of the experts I spoke with sees this relationship between social media and politics going anywhere anytime soon.

As of December 2012, 67 percent of online adults use social networking sites. Of those who use social networking sites or Twitter, 38 percent use those social media to “like” or promote material related to politics or social issues that others have posted. Liberal Democrats who use social media are particularly likely to use the “like” button—52 percent of them have done so and 42 percent of conservative Republicans have also done so.

“Politicians and campaign staffers are interacting with their supports – the base, the volunteers,” England said. “Starting a viral conversation with these people can lead to positive content posted to Facebook or Twitter which starts a positive trend and leads to an even more expansive conversation.”

Creating a social media strategy for use during political campaigns has become an essential part of every candidate’s plan to get into office. With social media sites often getting more traffic than an official campaign website, it’s important for candidates to get and stay connected.

“I first started using sites like Facebook and Twitter in 2010 when I ran for elected office,” Winslow said. “I plan to keep on doing so – it’s a great way to keep in touch with folks.”

Young Professionals, Entrepreneurs and Community Leaders for Ed Markey

Northeastern University College Democrats members attended an event to support Ed Markey.

Northeastern University College Democrats members attended an event to support Ed Markey.

To see more photos from the social media powered event click here.

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And the endorsement goes to…

This week The Boston Globe endorsed Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Dan Winslow in the Massachusetts special election Senate race.

Find out why the editorial board at the Globe thinks Markey is the best choice for Bay State Democrats by clicking here.

Read why the board chose Dan Winslow as the best candidate for the GOP by clicking here.

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SNL Sums Up My Final Project (Kind Of)

I stumbled upon this great Saturday Night Live skit from November 2012. Check it out for a good laugh (and a preview of my final project).

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The Gloves Are Off

Check out for a summary of the punches thrown at the Democratic Senate debate.

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#Politicians and #Hashtags

While doing some research for my final project I stumbled across this great BuzzFeed article.

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Taxi Cabs and Data Viz

The Boston Globe recently released a Spotlight series called “Driven to the Edge,” which exposes the cab industry in Boston as a world of common payoffs and driver exploitation.

The Globe Spotlight team conducted a nine month investigation into the shady world of medallions, long hours, low wages, and dangerous situations. To accompany Globe reporter’s storytelling, the team enlisted the help of those with expertise in the field of data visualization.

The three part series on the Boston cab industry has several great interactive graphics; I’ve chosen three to discuss for this post.

The first displays the unbelievable cost of a taxi medallion in the city. This graphic allows readers to see how they’d fare in this difficult business. Traveling step-by-step, from buying and financing to expenses and totals, through the complicated process, readers are given a break down of exactly how valuable having a medallion in the city of Boston is.

The second interactive graphic takes a curious member of the public through “A night in the life of a cabbie“. Allowing readers to easily zoom in and out of the map while following the path of a taxi driver through a shift provides them with a near-first hand experience into the hectic, unproductive life of drivers.

By obtaining the fare data for one cab driver, the Boston Globe is able to reveal a job filled with frustrating days and meager rewards. In this last visualization, the Globe walks it’s readers through an easy tutorial and then allows them to freely roam the chart; exploring individual cab ride costs, how a negative day can impact totals, and what the weekly earnings may be for a cab driver.

These data visualization tools do an excellent job of complementing, and sometimes even telling, the story.

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Ding! Ding! Ding! Round 1

Recaps from the first round of debates can be found below:

Stay tuned for Round 2.

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Happy April Fool’s Day, from #mapoli

Dan Winslow, bald leadership.

And Gabriel Gomez is going to run the Boston Marathon.

That’s all, folks.

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What’s up with Mo?

I wanted to take some time this week to post a little something about our long lost friend, William “Mo” Cowan.

As you recall, in January Cowan was appointed to serve as interim Senator through the June 25, 2013, special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Questions arose, speculations were made, and interest was sparked after Governor Deval Patrick’s announcement nearly two months ago.

So, what’s the former senior advisor to the Governor up to in D.C.?

Most recently, he’s joined the Congressional Black Caucus, becoming the group’s only member in the Senate.

At the end of February, Cowan cast a vote in confirmation of the nomination of Jacob Lew to be Secretary of the Treasury.

Just a week or so after heading down to the District, the newly sworn in junior Senator from Massachusetts voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that would help to prevent violent crimes against women.

In between, he’s…

  • And stood in the US Capitol for the unveiling of a statue that honors the life and legacy of the great Rosa Parks

Follow Cowan on Twitter for regular updates.

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Burger map

My review of Mr. Bartley’s was part of a larger class assignment focused on mapping. Each student in the class was assigned a restaurant and asked to review a burger from the menu.

Click on the link above to find the Google map which represents the places each one of us went to in the Greater Boston area.

Reinventing the News • Spring 2013

As a class project, students in Reinventing the News wrote about their favorite burger restaurants in Boston and Cambridge, and then plotted their reviews on a Google map. Please have a look.

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