I just read this fantastic article on Social Media today. The article discusses the need for businesses to essentially become their own media companies and produce their own content, to be told in a story format. As an elected official, this rang true for me on multiple levels, which I’d like to discuss below. However, if you read nothing else, please understand this when it comes to social media use: You must tell stories and create your own content.
The decline of traditional media
I’ve noticed it as an elected official, and most people who pay attention have noticed it as well – traditional media focuses less on local politics. Print media is declining and people are relying more and more on social media to get their news. What’s the end result of this media shift?
Everyone is a reporter
Thanks to our phones and social networks, everyone can report and spread the news. And this certainly applies to elected officials. Think about it: in the days before social networking, you had extremely limited options to massively connect with all of our constituents. That day is no longer here – you no longer need the media to have a massive connection with your constituents.
You have an obligation
This is the part where I get on a soapbox: If you are an elected official, you have an obligation to advocate for your views, and to keep your constituents informed. And, if traditional media is declining, then elected officials must fill the gap by making more direct connections with our constituents. We have to let them know the services available to them, our positions on vitally important issues, and how they can connect with us.
The danger to our democracy
This is all well and good, and I like to think that I’m a good elected official who really believes in everything I wrote above. But only a fool would ignore the challenges that the decline in traditional media presents to our democracy. Of course every elected official will do everything possible to keep our constituents informed about what we do – it’s more than just good for democracy – it’s good politics. But it’s not as if we are going to be doing anything but presenting ourselves in the best possible light – and it is the job and goal of reporters to provide that honest examination of our actions. So, as traditional democracy declines, and as elected officials enter the media business, we also lose the guardians of democracy. On one hand, it’s great that elected officials can communicate, so easily, with constituents. On the other hand, it’s incredibly dangerous, if no one else is watching us.
Any thoughts to add about this media shift? Let us know in the comments!