A number of people have asked about my decision to allow candidates for public office contribute posts to RI Future about their campaigns, so I thought it was a worthwhile editorial decision to address here.
To set the scene, Libby Kimzey and Mark Binder – both of whom are self-described progressives, semi-regular contributors to RI Future and active members of our online community – are running for seats in the state House of Representatives.
It’s my hope that they both post many more times throughout the campaign season, and I hope many other candidates for office do as well. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline, both self-described progressives, have contributed posts in the recent past and I hope they take the opportunity to do so again during the campaign. In fact, there is literally little that would make me happier than if every candidate for office posted to RI Future during the campaign. Maybe if they all commented with their real names, to boot!
I know the internets are still a relatively new animal to some, and more than a few wish news and information still came packaged the way it did 20 and 50 years ago. But we can’t turn back now any more than the early humans could have left fire alone. Nor should we. Candidates for public office having another way to communicate with people is a good thing – especially when the people can communicate right back, and publicly. And the more the web is incorporated into the political process, assuming it’s kept free and open, it should serve to mitigate the problems with unfettered money in the political process.
Being a blog that blends news reporting with opinion writing on issues that matter to progressives, we’re in a pretty unique position to give our audience – a vast majority of whom I’m guessing are voters – a variety of ways to learn more about the candidates – one of those ways is the candidates can submit their own posts. The candidates, for the most part, seem appreciative of the opportunity as well. (Though I wish more weren’t so afraid of the comments section … the anonymous comments aren’t nearly as influential as some seem to think – people generally recognize them for what they are: a sometimes good and sometimes bad side dish meant to add a little value to the main course. Conversely, the ones with real names carry greater weight.)
Here are our general guidelines for submissions, in particular as applied to contributors who are running for and writing about their candidacy:
- We want to know about progressive issues rather than about your campaign or yourself, though we veer from this frequently and interpret it rather loosely and broadly.
- There is no non-compete clause inherent with you post so don’t be surprised if you see a post from your competition on RI Future as well.
- There are plenty of other places where you can dump on the progressive movement, if that’s your thing, so we choose not to compete in that sector of the marketplace of ideas.
- It’s neither a tacit or an explicit endorsement for the seat you seek.
This last point is an interesting one, especially as it applies to Binder’s campaign against House Speaker Gordon Fox. Binder is probably more progressive than is Fox. But Fox may well be the best Democrat to lead the House of Representatives. It’s possible we could give Binder a platform during the campaign, but still endorse his opponent.
I probably should have done a post prior to campaign season letting our readers and all candidates know we planned to do as much … just as much as a news/opinion hybrid blog is a good medium for communicating with candidates, it’s also a pretty good place to tackle issues of journalistic integrity and political communication.