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The Election Blogging Guide (2006)

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An early effort to apply digital tools to political uses, co-written with Zephyr Teachout and Solana Larsen.

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The Election Blogging Guide (2006)

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. 2 Authors Solana Larsen openDemocracy Zephyr Teachout The University of Vermont Mary Joyce Demologue.com Attribution e Non-Commercial e Share-Alike Version 1.0 (September 2006)
  3. 3. 3 Contents 4 Introduction 5 Blogging Strategies 7 Election Blog Features 11 Blogging Anonymously 15 Promoting Your Blog 18 Case Studies
  4. 4. 4 …election blogs can become potent forces for journalistic independence, freedom of speech, accountable government, and active citizenship…. Introduction Since its birth in the mid-nineties and its popularization at the turn of the millennium, blogging has been an intriguing platform for personal expression made public. While blogs (first called weblogs) began as online diaries, their uses, and the topics they cover, have been increasing ever since. Blogs have been forums for political speech almost since their inception, yet the full political potential of blogging has yet to be achieved. Election blogging is the next step in the realization of blogs as a tool for political activism. The 2004 American presidential election was the first election closely covered by bloggers. Now, bloggers around the world practice "election blogging" by writing about and commenting on election news. What is the possible impact of election blogging? Election blogs are important media tools in all countries. However, it is in countries where political speech and press freedoms are limited that blogs have the most important role to play. Blogs, because they exist virtually, can afford to push the boundaries of speech further than broadcast and print journalists, which are more easily regulated by the government. Thus, blogs can act as alternative sources of information in an environment where officially-sanctioned media coverage is biased or incomplete. They can also act as free speech zones. Through comment threads, readers can anonymously discuss political topics they might not be willing to discuss in a non-digital setting. In this way, election blogs can become potent forces for journalistic independence, freedom of speech, government accountability, and active citizenship. This guide does not presume to dictate election blogging methods. It is the hope of the authors that the suggestions herein will inspire bloggers to find their own solutions and to create their own unique formats for expressing their ideas. It is also our hope that the guide will be updated and translated into other languages, under our Creative Commons license, as election blogging continues to grow and mature. If you would like an editable version of the guide, please e-mail Mary at MaryCJoyce@gmail.com. This guide is not meant to be the last word on election blogging, but rather the beginning of a discussion of how this form of citizen journalism can be carried out more efficiently and effectively. There are no rules to elections blogging, just be honest and speak your mind. It is your right as a citizen and your privilege as a blogger.
  5. 5. 5 Blogging Strategies e Clarify Your Goal Before you start an election blog – either alone or with a group – it is crucial to have a clear idea of what it is you wish to accomplish. Who is your audience? What do you hope to contribute to the political debate? How will you interact with your readers? It’s important to communicate this clearly, especially if you are siding with a particular party or candidate. e Motivations: Why Start an Election Blog? • “I live in a country where there is little freedom of the press. I want to report on the things that are left out of national media reports.” • “I work for a democracy and human rights organization. We want to create a blog that highlights the work we’re doing and the injustices we see.” • “I already have a blog. I wish to focus on the election to help campaign for/against a specific candidate, and convince others to be politically active.” • “I feel I can support the public debate by providing an overview of election news from different perspectives.” • “I want to blog in English to help inform foreigners and the international media about what is going on.” • “I want to make it easier for people to locate good blogs about the elections. I am going to create a website that aggregates all of them.” • “I am a news junkie. If I don’t write about the stuff I am reading, I might explode.” • “I am really fascinated by the elections of country X even though I don’t live there. I’d like to explore what the outcome will mean.” • I am an expatriate and I want to cover an election that is happening back in my home country. e When Should you Begin your Blog? You should begin your blog well in advance of the election. You will need at least six months to work out technical problems and build up a reader-ship. Beginning exactly one year in advance will give a nice symmetry to the blog's content. You can begin even earlier than that it you'd like, but bear in mind that there will not be very much election news for you to cover until a few months before the election. Although it is quite common to start an election blog only one or two months before an election, this is not recommended. You will not have enough time to gain a readership, comprehensively understand the election news you are writing about, or make necessary improvements to your blog. It will take time for people to find you, and for journalists to gain confidence in the quality of your reporting.
  6. 6. 6 Start your blog! Sites where you can create a free blog: • www.blogger.com (most popular) • www.xanga.com • wordpress.org • spaces.msn.com • www.blogsome.com e What Happens to the Blog after the Election? What should you do after the election is over? If you decide to stop blogging, do so with a formal past. You may wish to evaluate the fairness of the voting, the impact of the election results, or expectations for the newly-elected leader. You may also wish to reflect on your blog's role in the election process. Other than creating closure for your readers, this final post will also give you an opportunity to reflect on the significance of your blog in its entirety. Alternatively, you may decide to continue writing the blog even after the election ends. This is what Chile's el Teléfono Rojo decided to do after the presidentiql elections in January 2006. Although it began as an election blog, the project continued after the election by transforming itself into a general political blog that covers news from South America and beyond. Don't worry too much about how your blog will end, though. Now it is time to think about how it will begin and how it will sustain itself during the campaign. The following section lays out some suggestions about the most important part of any election blog - content.
  7. 7. 7 Election Blog Features So you've decided to blog about an election? Great! Now what? What will the blog include? What will you write about? Will your blog have podcasts or video? Don't panic. This chapter includes lots of suggestions about what features you can include in your election blog and is divided into sections for elementary, intermediate, and advanced bloggers. If you are already blogging you might like to start with section two or three. However, if this is to be your first blog, you can start on part one and then add more elaborate features as your skills as a blogger increase. e The Basics: Elementary Features 1. Posts1. Posts1. Posts1. Posts One concern that some bloggers have about election blogging is: will there be enough to write about? The short answer is "yes." The long answer is "sometimes you have to be creative." It's true that there will be times when there is a lot of campaign news (especially right before the election) and there will be times when there will be less to write about (particularly at the beginning of the campaign). Below is a brief list of types of posts you can write so you will never be without a topic. React to a traditional media news items: Traditional media news items (from a newspaper, magazine, TV show, or radio program) are a great sources for a blog post. Remember, if you write a post commenting or criticizing a news item, include a link to the original article (if it is online). React to a blog post: In addition to the traditional media, other bloggers can provide a lot of inspiration. Did another blogger bring up an interesting topic in a post? Then give your own commentary. Remember to provide a link to the other blogger's post. Analyze a campaign issue: These types of posts will probably make up most of what you write about, because you can write about a campaign issue at any time and there are an unlimited number of issues to cover. What is the state of economic development / primary education / public healthcare in your country? What impact will the election have on these issues? Where do the various candidates stand on these issues? You may choose to write in an un-biased way or you can back a particular position. Also, bear in mind that controversial issues tend to get more comments, but, depending on how you present the issue, they can also make you enemies, so think carefully about how you will present a sensitive issue. "Follow" the Candidate: Where are the candidates going to campaign? What are they saying at their campaign stops? This information may be found in local newspapers or on the candidate's website. Candidate Gossip: Who says election blogs have to be completely serious? Gossip about the private lives of candidates, as long as you have a reasonably reliable source (don't want to get sued for libel, do you?) can add some spice to your site and bring in readers. Sarkozy Blog (France) covers news about presidential contender Nicolas Sarkozy's rocky relationship with his wife.
  8. 8. 8 Public Opinion Poll Results: Public opinion polls (a type of survey whose results seek to represent the public at large) are very popular around election time, especially those that ask that all-important question, "who will you vote for?" You may wish to publish the results of public opinion polls on your site. The simplest way to do this is to write about poll results in a blog post or create a simple chart of poll results. Remember to say which organization carried out the poll. If you think that the poll may have questionable validity (because the sample was limited geographically, because the sample seems too small to be representative, etc.) then say so. 2222. Links, Links, Links. Links, Links, Links. Links, Links, Links. Links, Links, Links Other than posts, links are the easiest thing to add to your blog. The easiest place to put links is in a sidebar. Here are some things you might want to link to: A Blogroll: Bloggers survive through blogrolls (lists of links to other blogs). If you put their blog on your blogroll, then they'll put your blog on theirs (if you ask). If you want to link to different types of blogs (ie other blogs covering the election, international political blogs, etc) you may wish to create different categories within your blogroll Reputable traditional media sources: Other than linking to individual articles, you may wish to link to the homepage of a news source you feel is doing a good job of covering the election and will provide useful information to your readers. Political party websites: If the political parties in your country have websites, link to them. Background information and analysis: You're well-versed in the politics of your country, but maybe some of your readers aren't. For this reason, you may want to link to basic information about your country's political system, electoral code, etc. Wikipedia is a good place to find such information. Other bloggers and traditional media sources may also provide this content. Recommended political books: Remember books? People used to learn about the world by reading information printed on bound paper. Books were bulky and expensive, not to mention flammable. Nevertheless, books should not be completely disregarded in this digital age, especially if they include useful information. How do you link to a book? Link to a website where it can be bought. Voting information: If the government offers practical information about the election online (ie, where to vote, voting requirements, etc) consider linking to it. 3333. About Page. About Page. About Page. About Page Readers may want to know a bit about your site. An about page can include various information, including the goals of the site (does your site support a particular candidate or is it non-partisan?), the history of the site (how and when was it started?) and biographical information about the writers (naturally, this information will be limited if you are blogging anonymously). If you are lucky enough to be mentioned in the traditional media, you can also put that information here. Your about page might also include a "Code of Ethics." HorseRace08 (USA) states that the goals of the blog are accuracy, regular posts, and respectful commenting.
  9. 9. 9 Web Polls Sites where you can create a free web poll: • www.freepolls.com • www.dpolls.com • www.free-web-polls.com • www.pollhost.com e Taking it to the Next Level: Intermediate Features 1. Candidates Profiles1. Candidates Profiles1. Candidates Profiles1. Candidates Profiles After you've taken care of the basics, why not take your blog to the next level? One of the first special features you might like to add are candidate profiles. At a minimum, candidate profiles should include a photo of the candidate, his/her political party, and his/her website (if one exists). Profiles can also include a biography of the candidate, including past job experience that is relevant to his/her candidacy. The biography should be as objective as possible. You may also wish to profile their running mates (candidate for vice president) if you are covering a presidential race. 2222. Web Polls. Web Polls. Web Polls. Web Polls What better way to spread the values of democracy than by allowing people to vote right on your website? Web polls are an easy way to get feedback from your readers and make your site more interactive. Many programs offer free web polls. Singapore Election Watch (Singapore) has several polls on the site, asking not only about candidate choice, but also about how readers feel about certain campaign issues. 3333. Photographs. Photographs. Photographs. Photographs Photographs are the easiest form of multimedia to add to your blog and they make a blog more visually interesting. You may wish to include photographs (of candidates, rallies, etc.) in your individual posts or create a page dedicated solely to images. You can take pictures yourself or use photographs from a photo-sharing site like Flickr.com, where you enter a "tag" (keyword) and are presented with all photos that have been tagged with that word. You may use them on your site if the photographer has published the photographs under a Creative Commons license that allows for free use. Flickr also has a feature called "Daily Zeitgeist" that sends a feed of photos directly to your blog. Zeitgeist means "spirit of the time" iand refers to the fact that the service constantly sends new images to your blog. To add this feature, go to http://www.flickr.com/fun/zeitgeist. Then select whether you want your photos, your contact's photos, or everyone's photos sent to your blog. Then copy and paste the piece of code provided into your sidebar. Instant blog photos! It is not recommended that you post photos from other websites or from online versions of print media into your blog as this may constitute copyright infringement. No matter where you get your photos, remember to credit the source in small print in corner of the photo itself or in the caption. Crediting sources will give your blog more credibility and make it seem more professional.
  10. 10. 10 e Become an Election Blog Pro: Advanced Features 1. Videos: Candidate Interviews & Commercials1. Videos: Candidate Interviews & Commercials1. Videos: Candidate Interviews & Commercials1. Videos: Candidate Interviews & Commercials If you have the expertise, videos can be an interesting addition to you site. TV interviews with candidates and campaign commercials are examples of videos you might like to post. If you are not a pro at adding video, you can use YouTube, a video sharing site, to help you out. First upload your video at http://www.youtube.com. On the page where your video is displayed you will see an "embed" code to the right of your video. Insert this code into your blog post and YouTube will do the rest. You can also insert other people's videos into your blog this way. Instant video blog! 2222. Podcasts. Podcasts. Podcasts. Podcasts Some tech-savvy candidates may release podcasts of their speeches and political views. If so, go ahead and post them. 3333. Site Banners. Site Banners. Site Banners. Site Banners If you have the expertise, you can create banners for your site that other bloggers can insert into the html of their own sites to provide your site with some free publicity. 4444. Comparison of Candidate Positions on Specific Issues. Comparison of Candidate Positions on Specific Issues. Comparison of Candidate Positions on Specific Issues. Comparison of Candidate Positions on Specific Issues Some people might visit your site to do research on candidate positions on important issues like education spending, healthcare, or free trade. You can learn where candidates stand on various issues by checking the candidate's website, reading about their positions in a newspaper or magazine, or seeing them talk about their positions on TV. There are many formats for comparing candidate positions. The simplest way to compare positions is to write a post on, for instance, education spending, and then describe the different positions of the candidates on that issue in your post. If you are a little more ambitious you can create a page of your site dedicated to comparing the candidates. If you are a truly skilled (and you have sufficient time) you can create a more complex program, like that of Elecciones 2006 (Costa Rica). This site created an interface where you select an issue and then select the candidates you would like to compare and the site directs you to a page about that particular issue as viewed by those particular candidates.
  11. 11. 11 Blogging Anonymously e Should You Blog Anonymously? In determining whether or not you should write your election blog anonymously, consider this: could your blog be published as an opinion column in a national newspaper without any serious negative effect on you? If the answer is "yes," you are lucky enough to live in a country with some freedom of political expression. If the answer is "no," consider blogging anonymously. Anonymous blogging protects what you say in your blog from having an impact on your job, your privacy, and even your safety. As an election blogger, you will likely be criticizing some of the most powerful people in your country, particularly members of the government. These people might prefer that you were not criticizing them. Your voice and your blog are important, so why not take some simple steps to protect them? e Security vs. Convenience This section is separated into basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques for protecting your anonymity.* In determining the level of anonymity that is appropriate for your election blogging, consider two factors: security and convenience. Methods which offer you a higher level of security will be more inconvenient to use. If you use an anonymous proxy (discussed later), it will take longer for you to load web pages. If you use different internet cafés to post to your blog, you will lose the convenience of posting from your home computer or from a single internet café. On the other hand, if you use a normal server and post from home, what you gain in convenience you will lose in security. The sections below lay out steps for anonymous blogging that run from basic measures, which are quite convenient and moderately secure, to advanced measures, which are extremely secure but also pretty inconvenient. You may also considered talking to other bloggers whom you trust about the measures suggested here in order to get their feedback on what level of anonymity is necessary in your country. e Basic Measures 1.1.1.1. Do not give out personal information on your blogDo not give out personal information on your blogDo not give out personal information on your blogDo not give out personal information on your blog. Do not use your real name. Do not post photos of yourself on your blog. Do not say where you were born, where you work, or where you went to school. The blog is about elections, not about you, so keeping this information confidential should not be too difficult. 2.2.2.2. Do not use a paid eDo not use a paid eDo not use a paid eDo not use a paid e----mail or blogging service.mail or blogging service.mail or blogging service.mail or blogging service. Any online payment can be linked back to a credit card or PayPal account, which can in turn be linked back to you. Fortunately, there are many free e-mail services (G-Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Hushmail, * This section will briefly review anonymous blogging techniques. Those desiring more information should read the guides listed at the end of this section, which are all available online and which were immensely helpful in the creation of this section.
  12. 12. 12 Proxy Servers Websites which list proxy servers: • www.publicproxyservers.com • www.samair.ru/proxy • tools.rosinstrument.com/proxy etc). There are also many free blogging services, which are listed on page 6. And, of course, when you do sign up for a free e-mail or blog account, don't use your real name to create the account. Also, bear in mind that if you put a contact e-mail address on your site, the e-mail address can be traced back to your computer using your IP address. All the more reason to… 3.3.3.3. Use different computersUse different computersUse different computersUse different computers. Every computer that accesses the internet has an IP address, a series of four numbers from zero to 255, separated by periods (for example, 123.45.67.189) If you always use the same computer to post to your website, government authorities can isolate your IP address, track it to your computer, and track your computer back to you. So don't use your home computer or your work computer. Post from an internet café. If you want, you can also change internet cafés every so often to prevent the authorities from linking you to a certain internet café. If you are a student, you can use different computers on campus: in the library, in the student center, in different academic buildings. The key is to use computers that are used by lots of other people, so that even if the authorities learn which computer is posting to your site, they cannot determine exactly who was using the computer at the time the posts were made. e Intermediate Measures 4444. Use a proxy serverUse a proxy serverUse a proxy serverUse a proxy server. A proxy server is like a remote browser that does your searching for you. Normally, you access a site and the information is delivered directly to your computer and your IP address is shown as accessing that site. If you use a proxy server, you request information and the proxy server gets the information for you, and the proxy server, not your computer, is shown as accessing the site. Your own computer's IP address is protected. How do you use a proxy server? First you need to find one. Lists of proxy servers are available by simply Googling "proxy server." You can also find lists of proxy servers at the sites in the box above. Then, you need to go into your browser and replace your own IP address with that of the proxy server. To find out how to do this, go to anonymous blogging guru Ethan Zuckerman's section of The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents (see resource list at the end of this section). Your browser will run more slowly using a proxy server. This is because, instead of going directly from the site to your computer, information is now being re-routed through the proxy server. As I said, more security means less convenience. On the plus side, you will be using your home computer again instead of an internet café, as you can’t very easily install a proxy server on a computer at an internet café. 5555. TorTorTorTor is a fancy proxy server. Instead of passing your information request through one extra server - the proxy - it passes that information through between two and twenty other computers, making it extremely difficult to tell where the original information request came from. In addition, each step of the chain is encrypted, further hiding the originating computer. Because of the multiple layers that requests pass through, this technology is called "onion routing." The good news is that Tor is (relatively) easy to install (http://tor.eff.org/cvs/tor/doc/tor-doc-win32.html). The bad news is that Tor can be compromised if you access a site with a certain Java applet, so to be completely safe Ethan recommends that you disable Java while using Tor. Also, surfing is very slow, and sometimes Tor doesn't work because your internet service
  13. 13. 13 provider (ISP) may block some of Tor's routers. For this reason, you may decide to use Tor only to view sensitive websites and post and view your own blog. e Advanced Measures The following options are listed in brief and are fairly complicated. For a more thorough explanation of these methods, refer to the guide listed at the end of each entry. 6666. CircumventorCircumventorCircumventorCircumventor is a proxy server that a friend can set up on their own computer. A friend living in a freer country can set up Circumventor on her computer and then her computer becomes your own personal proxy server. On the negative side, Circumventor is difficult to install and when your friend's computer reboots its IP address will change and you will not be able to use the IP address as a proxy until your friend contacts you with the new IP address. (The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents) 7777. AdoptAdoptAdoptAdopt----aaaa----BlogBlogBlogBlog is a program in which your blog is adopted by a server in another country. Find out more on their website, (http://www.adoptablog.org/). (Anonymous Blogging Guide - Zimbabwe/Malaysia). 8888. TorParkTorParkTorParkTorPark is a version of Tor that runs off a portable flash drive that you can plug into a USB port on any computer running Windows 2000 or XP. This allows you to use Tor on a computer at an internet café (assuming you have a flash drive and the computer has a USB port), because now Tor is portable. You can download TorPark at (http://www.freehaven.net/~arrakis/torpark.html ). (Anonymous Blogging Guide - Zimbabwe/Malaysia). 9999. InvisiblogInvisiblogInvisiblogInvisiblog is the most powerful anonymous blogging system currently available. The bad news is that it is also extremely complicated. You post to your blog by using an e-mail program, called MixMaster, to send a specially-formatted encrypted e- mail, necessitating the use of "public key" and "private key" encryption technology. If that sentence didn't scare you, read more about Invisiblog in The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents. e In One Sentence Based on the security needs of the average anonymous blogger, Ethan recommends a combination of TorTorTorTor (browser) + HushmailHushmailHushmailHushmail (e-mail) + Wordpress.comWordpress.comWordpress.comWordpress.com (blog platform). e Anonymous Blogging Resources TitleTitleTitleTitle:::: The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents Published bPublished bPublished bPublished by:y:y:y: Reporters Without Borders LinkLinkLinkLink: http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/handbook_bloggers_cyberdissidents GB.pdf?PHPSESSID=b3d15d5bf8e5181df008cb7ed4261300 NoteNoteNoteNote:::: This is the best guide to anonymous blogging currently available. (It is where you will find Ethan Zuckerman's guide to anonymous blogging.) Lots of other important information for election bloggers (like how to set up and run a blog and how to make your e-mail truly private) are also included in this guide. The guide is available in English, French, Farsi (Persian), Arabic, and Chinese.
  14. 14. 14 TitleTitleTitleTitle: Anonymous Blogging Guide - Zimbabwe and Anonymous Blogging Guide - Malaysia Published byPublished byPublished byPublished by: Spirit of America and the Committee to Protect Bloggers LinkLinkLinkLink: http://anoniblog.pbwiki.com/ NoteNoteNoteNote: Both guides contain the same technical information but with country- specific introductions. The page on which these guides are posted also includes anonymous blogging guides in Arabic, Farsi, and Chinese. TitleTitleTitleTitle: How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else) Published byPublished byPublished byPublished by: Electronic Frontier Foundation LinkLinkLinkLink: http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Anonymity/blog-anonymously.php NoteNoteNoteNote: The chief strength of this guide is its brevity. It is not really a guidebook but rather a web page about anonymous blogging. Also, the intended audience is people gossiping about their families or co- workers, not election bloggers. If you are looking for more information, The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents is really your best bet.
  15. 15. 15 Technorati Tag Code Put this code in every blog post, replacing the word "Kenya" with your own tag • <!-- technorati tags begin --><p style="font- size:10px;text- align:right;">techno rati tags: <a href="http://technor ati.com/tag/kenya" rel="tag">kenya</a>< /p><!-- technorati tags end --> Promoting Your Blog e Sharing your Stories - Outreach to Traditional and New Media After you’ve set up your blog and told your friends, you may also want to publicize your blog to a wider audience to make sure that your stories from the elections are heard. People will not find your blog on their own, except in the rare cases, so if you want to be heard, you have to do a little work promoting your blog. While this section lays out an extensive campaign, you can take whatever parts of it appeal to you are leave out parts that don't. e Technorati Technorati is the top blog search engine in the world. It indexes more than 20 million blogs. Although there have recently been valid criticisms about its limited ability to pick up non-English blogs, it is still a powerful tool for increasing your readership. After you go to http://www.technorati.com and sign up, you can "claim" your blog (identify yourself as the owner of the blog and simultaneously register it on Technorati). Now posts from your site will appear on Technorati. In order to make it easier for people to search your blog, you will need to place Technorati tags in each of your posts. Tag are like keywords that describe the content of your post. In order to add the Technorati tag, you must also add a line of html text. On a Blogspot blog, when you are creating a post, you switch from the "compose" tab to the "html" tab and then insert the code. An example of Technorati tag code is printed in the box above. You can add an infinite amount of tags simply by repeating the html code and changing the tag word. . After you publish your post, you "ping"" Technorati, which can be done manually through the Technorati website, to let them know that you have written a new post. Then Technorati's search engines check your blog for the new post and incorporate your post into their database. If you write a post about the Kenyan elections, for example, and insert the Technorati tag "Kenya" into your post, then anyone searching Technorati for blog posts about Kenya will find your post. It's an easy way to find new readers e Blogosphere Outreach To make sure other local bloggers find out about your site, make a list of local blogs and blogs that will be interested in your site. You can do this by using a search engine like Google Blog Search or Technorati. Once you have made the list:
  16. 16. 16 Major Political Blogs • Instapundit (US) • Boing Boing (US) • Daily Kos (US) • Talk Left (US) • Jeff Jarvis (US) • Global Voices (US) • Send an email to the local bloggers. It can be very informal, with the body saying something simple such as, “Hello, my name is X. I have recently started a blog called “X”, at “url”. I hope to blog about the upcoming elections. I thought you might be interested in learning about it, and hope you check it out. Thanks so much!“ • Read the local blogs regularly and comment in their comment sections, and refer to other blogs in your own posts, with a link, showing that you are interested in what they are doing. If you do blog about another site, send the blogger a note letting them know. Blogging is not a passive writing activity. Successful bloggers are also active readers and commenters on other blogs. Major International BlogsMajor International BlogsMajor International BlogsMajor International Blogs When you have something noteworthy, you should also send a quick note to the major international bloggers, letting them know about what you are doing. They are always looking for interesting news and can make all the difference in getting the word out. e Traditional Media Outreach Before reaching out to the traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines), fill out the following fact sheet about your blog. Creating Press ReleasesCreating Press ReleasesCreating Press ReleasesCreating Press Releases A press release is a simple news story, written in the third person, which seeks to show to an editor or reporter why an event is newsworthy. For sending information to bloggers, you don’t need a press release. Reporters and editors are used to a very specific form of press release, so follow this form precisely for the greatest likelihood of a response. However, you can contact reporters directly without using a press release. Your Blog Fact SheetYour Blog Fact SheetYour Blog Fact SheetYour Blog Fact Sheet 1. One sentence on what you are doing: _______________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ 2. Who you are: _____________________________________________________ 3. Why people should care: __________________________________________ 4. URL for your site: __________________________________________________ 5. The topic of this particular post /what your blog is trying to do in general: ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________
  17. 17. 17 New Media Outlets • Common Dreams • TruthOut • Alternet Remember, the reporter is looking for a story that will be interesting to his readers and pleasing to his editor. When you are writing a press release, put yourself in the shoes of a reporter looking for a good story, and try to use the language of headlines and stories that you are familiar with. Once you have your basic message, take a sheet of paper and make a list of media outlets that you would like to contact. Create lists of bloggers, online media outlets, and traditional media outlets. You can find the e-mail addresses of newspaper editors and journalists by checking the newspaper itself, the paper's website, or by calling the newspaper and asking for this information. Political and Investigative JournalistsPolitical and Investigative JournalistsPolitical and Investigative JournalistsPolitical and Investigative Journalists Start with the reporters of your local papers. Either reporters you know or read regularly. Call the paper and get their phone number and email address, or visit the website of the local reporter. To go farther afield, search http://bolles.ire.org/dij/, the International Directory of Investigative Journalists. e New Media Outreach There are also several new media (internet) outlets that are halfway between traditional media and blogs. Unlike blogs and traditional media, these sites will let you publish your own writing, rather than writing the piece themselves. For them, you should send a note to the editor introducing yourself (you blog fact sheet) and attach a 500 to 2,000 word piece. e TV and Radio Outreach You can also make a complete list of the radio and TV outlets that might be interested in your blog using similar techniques to the ones you used to find the contact information for journalists. Form of a Press RForm of a Press RForm of a Press RForm of a Press Release:elease:elease:elease: [Title][Title][Title][Title] (e.g., Election Blogger finds Problems at X Polling Place) For Immediate ReleaseFor Immediate ReleaseFor Immediate ReleaseFor Immediate Release [Your Name, Cell Phone, Email][Your Name, Cell Phone, Email][Your Name, Cell Phone, Email][Your Name, Cell Phone, Email] [Body of Press Release][Body of Press Release][Body of Press Release][Body of Press Release] (The first paragraph should include who, what, when, where and how of your story. If a reporter reads only the first paragraph, she should have everything she needs to pitch the story to an editor. The following two or three paragraphs can include quotes (from you), details, and specific stories, or an explanation of the importance.)
  18. 18. 18 Case Studies In this section you will find examples of different kinds of election blogs. Visit the blogs and get inspired! 1. The Basic Single-Election Blog Name:Name:Name:Name: Elecciones 2005 URL:URL:URL:URL: http://www.elecciones2005.blogspot.com/ LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Chile DescriptionDescriptionDescriptionDescription:::: This Spanish-language blog, based in Chile, reported on the run-up to presidential elections (1st round Dec. '05; 2nd round in Jan. '06). It featured regular posts and links to other political blogs. It was written anonymously. Notes:Notes:Notes:Notes: The strength of this style of blog is its simplicity. It covers a single election, usually presidential. You can maintain this kind of a blog with minimal technical knowledge. Free blogging programs like Blogger, shown here, provide all the basic features you need (comments, archives, a sidebar for links, an RSS feed, etc). Basic "hacks" (alterations) can be made in the design of the blog if you are willing to spend an afternoon figuring out html basics. In this blog, for example, the writer changed the header image. Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category: Présidentielle 2007: http://politique.hautetfort.com/ (France) Belarus Elections 2006: http://belandrus.blogspot.com/ (USA) Elecciones en Mexico 2006: http://eleccionesmx2006.blogspot.com/ (Mexico) HorseRace '08: http://horserace08.blogspot.com/ (USA) Guyana Elections 2006: http://guyanaelections.blogspot.com/ (Guyana)
  19. 19. 19 2. The Basic Multiple-Election Blog NamNamNamName:e:e:e: Indecision 2006 URL:URL:URL:URL: http://www.canadian-politics.com/election/ LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Canada Description:Description:Description:Description: This English-language blog, based in Canada, covered the most recent parliamentary elections (Jan. '06). The blog featured posts categorized according to province, and links to political party sites. Notes:Notes:Notes:Notes: In truth, the multiple-election blog need not be much more complicated than the single-election blog. A simple system of categories allowed Joanne to create content about multiple parliamentary races. Another nice feature about this blog is that a group of non-partisan bloggers decided to create an alliance to support and promote each other's blogs by displaying the other alliance members in their blogrolls. Other examples in this cateOther examples in this cateOther examples in this cateOther examples in this category:gory:gory:gory: Singapore Election Watch: http://singaporeelection.blogspot.com/ (Singapore) Election Predictions: http://electionpredictions.blogspot.com/ (USA) My Election Analysis: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com/index.php (USA)
  20. 20. 20 3. The Group Election Blog Name:Name:Name:Name: El Télephono Rojo URL:URL:URL:URL: http://www.eltelefonorojo.org/ LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Chile Description:Description:Description:Description: This Spanish-language blog, based in Chile, also covered the 2005/2006 presidential election. The blog featured posts, a blogroll, and frequently asked questions. It was created by a group of university students and digital activists. Notes:Notes:Notes:Notes: Running your election blog as a group blog means less work for you because you can share writing and design responsibilities and also allows more people to be involved and thus more voices to be heard. Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category: Elecciones2006.com: http://www.elecciones2006.com/home.php (Costa Rica) Sg Election '06: http://sgelection06.djourne.net/ (Singapore)
  21. 21. 21 4. The Candidate Blog Name:Name:Name:Name: Sarkozy Blog URL:URL:URL:URL: http://sarkozyblog.free.fr/index.php LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: France DescriptionDescriptionDescriptionDescription:::: This French-language blog, based - not surprisingly - in France, is about Nicholas Sarkozy, current Minister of Interior. He is also expected to be a key contender in the 2007 presidential elections. This blog features posts, party news, press clipping, gossip, podcasts, and links to books about the candidate. This blog covers official news about Sarkozy and his political party (UMP) as well as gossip about his wife and podcasts by Sarkozy. Notes:Notes:Notes:Notes: If you favor a particular candidate or party, this type of blog is a very honest way to express your views. There is a place for partisanship in election blogging, but partisan blogs must always be honest about their bias. It is unethical to present your blog as non-partisan if the content of your blog clearly supports one candidate because this misleads readers. Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category: Chuck Hagel for President 2008: http://hagel2008.blogspot.com/ (USA)
  22. 22. 22 5. The Not-Only-An-Election Blog Name:Name:Name:Name: The Big Pharaoh URL:URL:URL:URL: http://bigpharaoh.blogspot.com/ LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Egypt Description:Description:Description:Description: This English-language blog is written by an anonymous blogger who lives in Cairo. Big Pharaoh covered the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt (stages 1 & 2 in Nov. '05; stage 3 in Dec. '05) with posts that were at times ironic, at times serious, but always insightful. BP's unique voice contributes greatly to the strength of the blog, which covers not only Egyptian politics but also international affairs. NotesNotesNotesNotes: You can blog about elections without blogging only about elections. In fact, most blog posts about elections come from general-interest blogs, not election blogs. So don't feel you need to have a specific type of blog to write about elections. If you want to write about elections, then do. Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category: Yon Ayisyen: http://peyinou.blogspot.com/ (Haiti) You Missed This: http://kumekucha.blogspot.com/ (Kenya) JCR's Place: http://www.rubindecelis.name/blog/ (Bolivia) Iraq the Model: iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/ (Iraq) Foreign Notes: http://foreignnotes.blogspot.com/ (Ukraine)
  23. 23. 23 6. The NGO Election Blog NameNameNameName: Iran Scan URL:URL:URL:URL: http://www.iranscan.net/blog/iran/index.jsp LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Great Britain DescriptionDescriptionDescriptionDescription: This English-language blog was created by the British NGO (non-governmental organization) openDemocracy in order to follow the 2005 Iranian presidential election. Usually blogs are maintained by individuals or informal groups of like-minded people. However, it is also possible for organizations to launch blogs. This blog was created because the Iranian election was seen as having international implications, and thus of interest to a non-Iranian audience. Posts were written by Iranians both based in Iran and in the diaspora. Note:Note:Note:Note: Iran Scan is actually a rather unusual NGO blog because is covers an election in another country. If you feel that your organization has something to say with regard to an upcoming election in your country, a blog might be appropriate. However, before launching the blog, be sure you know your country's law regarding non-partisanship. If it is not permitted for tax-exempt organizations to endorse a candidate, make certain that your blog remains objective and unaffiliated. Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category:Other examples in this category: The World Speaks: http://www.theworldspeaks.net/en/index.html (UK)
  24. 24. 24 7. The Near-Perfect Election Blog Name:Name:Name:Name: Elecciones2006.com URL:URL:URL:URL: http://www.elecciones2006.com/home.php LocationLocationLocationLocation:::: Costa Rica DescriptionDescriptionDescriptionDescription:::: This Spanish-language, Costa Rica-based group blog covered the recent presidential election (Feb. '06). It featured posts, candidate videos (interviews and campaign ads), candidate positions pages, poll results, photographs, and site badges. Notes:Notes:Notes:Notes: Not everyone can create a blog as consummately professional as Elecciones2006.com. Creating a site like this takes time, technical skill, and great creative ability. (In fact, the site's creator, José Daniel Clarke, is a professional web designer.) However, if you have the interest and ability to create this kind of blog, the results will be well worth the effort. You may end up creating a blog that rivals the websites of the traditional media (TV and newspapers) in its quality and informativeness. Other examples in this categoryOther examples in this categoryOther examples in this categoryOther examples in this category: None (in a class by itself)

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