Monday, March 13, 2006

How Quaint: A Columnist Who Responds to Emails

Well, here's something you don't see everyday. Yesterday, Adrian Walker of the Boston Globe wrote a column about Deval Patrick's rally and his campaign for governor. He said something in the column that demanded my attention, so I wrote a blog and sent him an email. In a classic when-pigs-fly moment, Walker actually responded to the email. His response deserves it's own blog.

Here was my email:

You didn't seem to have any knowledge of his specifics. Did you check his website? Here's his plan on educationa lone:

As a polisci major whose read countless, pointless so-called plans, I have to say this one is remarkably complete - and, well, specific. His website has other plans too. You just have to look.
Now, I've written a number of emails to Globe columnists in the past - both to critique and compliment (okay, I'll admit it, mostly Dan Shaughnessy rants!) - but I've never had any answered. To say I was surprised when Adrian Walker responded would be saying it lightly. I think Walker deserves to have his side of the story on this website for all to read; here's his email:

I've read everything on [Deval Patrick's] website. By the way, most voters won'[t] read the position papers on his website. That's one of the reasons why people, well, campaign. And make speeches. And hold rallies. And those are also good places to talk about what one would do. Thanks for writing.

I'm glad he read the website. It wasn't a lot to ask for, but I'm glad he did it. I'm not sure I understand Walker's conclusion, that Deval Patrick isn't detailed enough, unless he was being ambiguous. Perhaps, Walker wished Patrick was more detailed during the speech? If so, he should have said so in the column.

If not, to conclude that Patrick wasn't specific enough - when you include his website - seems a little, well, wrong... just as wrong as he is to suggest that websites aren't part of today's campaign process. However, it's his right to conclude Patrick is unspecific and I won't challenge it. He just should have made that clear in his column.

While I'll let Walker go on his personal opinion about whether or not Patrick did his duty in informing the public, Walker must be challenged on his assertion about speeches and campaigns. Generally, politicians aren't extremely detailed when making speeches at rallies. Some people may be mad at this, but that's an unrealistic and illogical gripe: a rally is meant to excite people. Details can bore people. In a town meeting setting or at a lecture, details are far more important and people want to hear them there; campaigns offer plenty of opportunity for people to see candidates in all settings, so to complain about the way rallies work isn't rational.

Furthermore, I'm not sure Walker has a full appreciation for the role of the internet in politics. People may wonder how Howard Dean raised so much money during the primaries: the internet. People may wonder where most people get their political news now: blogs (Daily Kos has more readers than The Nation and the New Republic combined).

People "campaign" by speaking, of course, but Walker doesn't seem to get that campaign websites are now even more important than speeches. Websites offer a quick, easy way to get information on candidates faster than ever before: Deval Patrick emphasized his website at several points during the speech. It's a revolution that most of the old media just hasn't kept up with, hence Walker's complete rebuke of Patrick's "position papers" on the campaign website.

I don't know Walker's background. Does he do mostly political columns, or just columns from events around the city? (I'm not speaking rhetorically, I'd like more information from readers.) If he isn't extremely politically savvy, he may not understand today's new political reality. Hell, most of D.C. hasn't caught on.

Finally, I wrote back to Adrian Walker that I appreciated his candor and the fact that he responded to my email. He probably had hundreds today, dozens alone about the Deval Patrick rally. I'm sure there were a bunch of people who emailed him about the very same thing I did (which could explain the few typos I corrected for him from his email). Any writer who is willing to respond to his readers is by default worthy of respect. His column was actually very good - something I've already mentioned on my blog - and I told him so. However, the column called for corrections and his email further suggests that he lags behind many of today's voters in the changing dynamics of politics. Here's hoping this governor's race is an eye-opener.

Update: Apparently, people are reading (1, 2).


Michael said...

Kudos. I agree with your assessment and response.

fwiw, you might enjoy my pix:

Uncle said...

I've run across Walker a few times in the past. His beat is, well, eclectic. I don't give him points for particular political acuity. He's variable, and the Deval Patrick piece is a good deal below average. He seems like someone who can learn, but on the Web front just now Walker seems to be a bit behind the curve. Perhaps he'd like a Deval Patrick Whistlestop campaign? Hmmm, come to think of it, that'd be a sweet gesture for public transportation.

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