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  Main > Indepth Features > Just blog it
Voting Day September 29, 2003  
Indepth  Features

Just blog it
Nancy Russell | Canada Now | Sept. 19

Watch Nancy's report in realvideo:

They still have election brochures and lawn signs. But no political party would dream of running a campaign without a Web site and e-mail. And two Islanders are helping practise a new kind of politicking … the blog. You won�t find a definition in the latest Oxford Dictionary, but there is one on Webopedia.com.

Blog (n.) Short for Web log, a blog is a Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author.

election watchWill Pate, 21, and Rob Paterson, 53, are the personalities behind Election Watch. They claim it's Canada's first weblog dedicated to a provincial election.

The Election Watch website came to life just as the election was called, and since has been a forum for people with an opinion and a connection to the Internet to participate in discussions about the policies and the personalities involved in the campaign.

People can read the posts on the page, and respond. It is an unedited exchange of ideas and political philosophies.

"Like a first visit to a coffee shop, you enter a weblog for the first time to hear people talking about a topic that they like," explains Patterson. "After a while of overhearing, you move over to their table and listen more carefully. Then maybe you make a comment or two. After a while this becomes your table too."

The Election Watch site also offers video and audio clips, editorial material from the owners, and plenty of opinions. The website is seeing 2,000 visitors a week, mostly young voters.

"If you talk to voters, Will's age. They'll tell you they can't get connected to the political process," says Patterson. "They're not going to go to a strawberry social and they don't hear the issues they're interested in being discussed in political circles."

Will Pate"When I say to my friends or other people my age, �Let's get on the weblog and talk about this,� they know exactly what I mean," adds Pate. "They know exactly where to go. They know exactly what to do.

"Initially, obviously, it will be people who are comfortable with the technology. It isn't necessarily an age issue … it's more attitudinal."

Jean Tingley, the Liberal's candidate in Park Corner-Oyster Bed, is a rookie candidate, and the only one in this campaign to be running her own blog. It started as a way for her children to keep track of her first run for elected office. It's become much more.

And as bloggers will tell you, once you start adding content to your website, people want more.

Jean Tingley"It's a commitment; it's a large commitment,” Tingley says. “Once you start, people are looking for it. Somebody called me one day and said, ‘There's no entry.’ I said, 'It's Sunday. I need a day off.' But they look for it every day."

Tingley spares her visitors from the usual political rhetoric, or at least tempers it with very personal observations and the type of comments you won’t be hearing as a candidate stands on your doorstep with a campaign brochure and request for your support.

Sept. 5 - I had the pleasure of meeting one voter today on the trail today who has made me see what a real hero is. Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Paynter of Park Corner. This 41 year old man made me realize that I really have nothing to complain about in my life. About 4 years ago he had his fingers crushed in a farm accident. As a result, a very rare medical condition arose. Kevin is constantly in pain. Pain blockers do not work on him. He has no tolerance to pain. He is on large doses of morphine tablets just to exist. He is said to be the most extreme case of this rare condition in North America. This is not an issue that any MLA can help with. In fact, Kevin did more for me today than he will ever know. As I listened to his story, I realized that I was sitting in the presence of a real-life hero. I will never forget Kevin Paynter.

"These are things that make you look human. You are human when you do that. And it's so different from the kind of spin you get from politicians when they're just speaking to a journalist," says Patterson.

Sept. 7 - Today, I celebrated by 54th birthday. Do I mind birthdays? Not on your life! I feel lucky to be able to celebrate one every year, since three of my siblings were not afforded the privilege of reaching 54. I come from a family of 14 children - 9 girls, 5 boys- and I celebrate each day with vigour and enthusiasm.

It is a new way to communicate. And in the election campaign all of the parties are attempting to connect with some sort of online diary. However, Tingley's blog is personal, not filtered by the party or ghost written by campaign workers. The time stamps – a marking attached to each entry noting the day and time it was entered into the page – range from early morning to late evening.

Patterson believes the level of intimacy for some politicians would make blogging a true test of character.

Rob Patterson"They're not used to communicating in writing in a personal way. They're used to communicating personally, in a personal way. They'll be prepared at the doorstep to face wild dogs, irate voters. They're good at that. And my advice, and Will's advice, is to bring the doorstep to your weblog."

"It would be pretty tough to log myself," says Pat Binns of the decision to have the weblog portion of www.patbinns.ca ghost written by workers. "Some people on my campaign keep an eye on what's happening every day, they know where I am and what I'm doing. They'll check it with me and I'll say, "Yeah, yeah. Go ahead."

If you think this is just a fringe phenomenon think again.

Howard Dean, the democratic presidential candidate in the United States, has a weblog that is causing fellow politicians and the media to take note. He used the Internet to assemble 100,000 campaign workers and raise millions of dollars in donations. It also secured his nomination for president.

Paul Martin, likely the next prime minister, also has a blog on his website.

"To be honest, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know what the hell a blog was - I joked that I thought it was something that might climb out of a swamp," he writes.

"I've discovered it’s something I enjoy. For a couple of reasons. First, it's an opportunity to express my thoughts publicly without having to go through all the sturm und drang that is a major speech or even a media scrum (another word that sounds like something that crawled out of a swamp - and with good reason)," Martin continues.

"Second, I've never been much of a diary keeper (unlike my Father who was methodical about keeping a journal and eventually published the diaries he kept while Canada's High Commissioner to London). But the blog gives me an opportunity to record my own views on the events of a given day or week. The media tend to chronicle my travels pretty closely but there's lots that gets missed. For example, a couple of weeks ago, while campaigning in Windsor I had the opportunity to drop by the gravesite of my Mom and Dad and visit their old house. It wasn't newsworthy but it was an immense pleasure for me."

Kennedy Nixon debatePaterson compares the potential impact of blogging to that of the first televised debate between leaders in a North American election – campaign that of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.

Tingley, who still meets her driver early in the morning, and visits dozens of doorsteps everyday, says keeping a blog will be something most every politician will have on their to-do list next election.

"I would almost guarantee everyone will have one next campaign. When we set up our campaign offices, we had to have email. You couldn't begin an office without e-mail. This will be the next step."

Bloggers such as Patterson are also quick to point out that this new political revolution is being embraced on Prince Edward Island … the birthplace of Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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