No blank check for Wall Street: How to get more coverage?

no blank check for Wall Street logoThe No blank check for Wall Street Facebook group is up over 500 people — excellent progress given the paucity of links!   Depending on the agreement of the bailout, and reactions to it on Monday, we may well try to ramp up the wall-writing campaign.   So it’s worth some time thinking about how else we might get more coverage.

The underlying dynamics we were originally hoping for were what happened with Get FISA Right (GFR) and 100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh.   After a high-profile launch, those groups got a little momentum, and a spate of blogging in the progressive blogosphere led to enough visibility that reporters at blogs associated with the mainstream media (MSM) started to cover them (1, 2).    Blogs like the Washington Post’s Clickocracy, the New York Times’ The Caucus, MSNBC’s First Read, Time’s The Swamp, and so are “in the echo chamber”: campaigns, pundits, reporters, and politicians all read them.  As well as this direct impact on opinion, this also increases the chance that the story will crack through and make it into print, cable, and maybe even network TV.

No blank check for Wall Street launched on Pam’s House Blend (PHB) and OpenLeft (OL), two places where I’ve had front-page posts in the past.  Alas, even though OpenLeft had multiple front-page stories on the bailout that evening, this story didn’t get front-paged.**  Fortunately, it did on Pam’s, which is a big deal.

For those who aren’t regulars at PHB, as well as being in a great community, it’s #1 in Electonic Village’s most recent list of top black blogs.  As if that’s not enough, Pam was recently featured in a New York Times article, had a big role in discussions about minority blogger representation at the Democratic National Convention, and PHB is a hub of the LGBTQ-o-sphere as well.  In other words, it’s prime placement.

Although not, apparently, from the perspective of the progressive blogosphere.  Nobody picked the story up.


So it’s a good time to take a step back. Let’s start with checking the assumption: are there stories here to cover?

I think so.  True, nothing’s happened yet; unlike reporters, who typically have to wait until the story is “real”, bloggers can — and love to — discuss possibilities, and frequently jump on stuff like this very early on.   For example, NoBayh started getting picked up by major sites even with less than 500 members; and Baratunde Thurston’s announcement of the Voter Suppression Wiki last week got a lot of attention even though there are only 10 incidents on it so far.

And at the risk of being immodest, Pam and I have both been pretty high-profile over the last few months in very complementary areas, us collaborating on a social network in a situation with very similar characteristics to FISA should be intriguing.  On top of that, No blank check‘s wall-writing campaign is a novel attempt to use Facebook to deliver angry voter feedback to politicians in a transparent, easy web 2.0 way — and one that could potentially scale much better than phone calls.  So perhaps I’m biased, but I think there *are* stories.

Which probably means that I didn’t do a good job of describing things in the “approach mail” that I sent to the various bloggers, including a link and asking them for help getting the word out.  Most high-profile bloggers, like everybody else, are overloaded with email*** — unless they recognize the name, they’ll only have time for a quick scan, so it’s important to pique their interest.  My bad.

In retrospect, I probably should have been more explicit in the mail about Get FISA Right’s success and my role.  I typically don’t talk much about that because it feels like tooting my own horn too much, but that means that unless people recognize my name they won’t have the context to understand why it matters.  I also should have been explicit about PHB’s reputation and impact.  Also, when I sent my first mail, the wall-writing campaign wasn’t fully fleshed out, and I emphasized the potential group size rather than any specific actions … it could be that we’re at the stage where “we’re going to build a humungous group!” isn’t enough to excite people.

The comparison with the Voter Suppression Wiki highlights a couple of other interesting differences.  Baratunde included a video in his initial post, and that tends to increase propagation a lot: as Harry Waisbren of Mad Progress points out, many bloggers want to include more video, and there’s a real shortage of high-quality stuff out there.  And because Baratunde and I both posted about the Voter Suppression wiki, there were two different voices out there from the beginning — which also makes it much easier for people to write good articles from the original raw materials.

All good learning.  Not sure about the video, but we should be able to address the other issues by Monday.  It’ll be interesting to see if that helps spark interest.

To keep from putting all of our eggs in one basket, it’s also worth thinking about additional paths to MSM attention besides the progressive blogosphere/MSM blog route.  For example, Al Giardano’s Global Tanning: Anatomy of a Media Virus on The Field describes how gossip columnists filled this important bridge role for the Sarah Palin tanning bed story.  It’s not clear that we’ve got anything juicy here, so this probably isn’t a path for us****.  Still, it’s a good illustration that it’s worth thinking broadly.

One of the most obvious possibilities is via the black blogopshere, aka the Afrosphere, which has become increasingly influential.  It might seem counter-intuitive to try to break this story via the Afrosphere because “it’s not a ‘black’ story”, but think about it more: most blacks — like most whites, Latin@s, Asians, and everybody else I talk to — are are as outraged at the prospect of a massive corporate giveaway without oversight as I am.  So particularly given the initial posts on Pam’s, it’s a story that might catch on … it’s worth thinking about how to try to encourage that.  Now that I think of it, the same’s true for the LGBTQ-o-sphere as well.

Now that I’m starting to think this way, I’m sure there are other options as well.  Could we work with the network?  It sure would be great to get more college students involved with the Facebook page and wall-writing campaign!  Or what about reaching out directly to state blogs to jointly coordinate actions in each individual state?  Can we leverage the tensions between the MSM and blogosphere, for example by encouraging the MSM to break a web 2.0 story that’s progressive bloggers are missing ?  The list goes on … suggestions welcome!

So depending on what direction we want to take things, there are a lot of options for No blank check for Wall Street. And hopefully seeing my thinking here is useful for others as well — we’re not the only campaign that’s faced challenges getting coverage.


* Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies

** it’s quite possibly personal feelings getting in the way here: I butted heads with Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller of OpenLeft over the Mutual guest blogging project a few months ago, after which Matt took down one of my front-page FISA posts, and they stopped replying to my email.  It’d be pretty disappointing if they were letting their emotions get in the way — they and the OL community are strongly against a blank check for Wall Street, and we worked together very successfully on Get FISA Right — but such is life.

*** and, FYI, typically don’t respond; so don’t take it personally if they don’t write back.

**** unless of course somebody forwarded on my request in the launch post that she make a video on the bailout mentioning “No blank check” to Paris Hilton … I keep checking my Facebook in hopes of a message, but nothing yet