Local politicians of a certain age are mostly clueless about the new media world we live in. Last week, the program director of a local Democratic club went out of his way to try to embarrass one of our reporters, Michele Kirk, by calling her a “tracker” practicing “gotcha journalism.”
Kirk is a professional who can take care of herself. She doesn’t need me or anyone else coming to her defense. But there is an important bipartisan lesson about the new rules of public life to be learned here: “Gotcha journalism” is a patsy, repeated by clumsy politicians spouting off when they shouldn’t be and getting caught red-faced when someone, anyone, has the gumption to expose them for it.
Every person in public office with any title at all, from the president of the United States all the way down to officers of local political clubs, must assume that anything he or she does or says in public is being captured on video.
When almost your entire audience has a smart phone that can record audio, video and still photographs, nothing in public is private anymore.
Most national politicians understand the new rules, but many local politicians still don’t get it. The younger ones generally do, but not politicians over 45 or 50 years old, who still think they can control elements of their coverage after years of working under the mainstream media’s archaic system.
In the past, by limiting press access to certain political events, politicians could make all kinds of inaccurate and inflammatory statements in front of a friendly, partisan crowd with little fear that the public at large would ever find out.
Any politician who still thinks his remarks in front of a crowd are private is just a train wreck waiting to happen.
A lot of the video we shoot turns out to be boring political boilerplate by local politicos who aren’t very good speakers, and we don’t bother publishing it.
But if a public speaker — from any party — says something profound, breaks new ground, gives an amazing speech or says something stupid or inflammatory, we’re going to publish it if we have it on video.
Local politicians should be happy to see a big, professional video camera recording their events, because that gives them fair warning that they’re on video, and if they have any brains at all, they’ll act accordingly.
But needing to be warned is a dangerous weakness for any public figure.
The video “gotcha” moment all politicians fear is most likely to come from one of their own supporters using a smart phone and posting on YouTube.
Of course, the solution is for politicians to always assume they’re on video and never say anything stupid, inaccurate or inflammatory in public.
Good luck with that.
Video of rude Democratic official
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