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Sanders Creates His Own Media          07/23 06:18

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- When Bernie Sanders wanted to preview a speech about his 
signature health care plan, "Medicare for All," he did not opt for a 
traditional interview.

   Instead, he made an appearance on "The 99," his Democratic presidential 
campaign's in-house livestreamed show, a controlled, decidedly on-message 
pro-Sanders program that streams on a variety of services including Twitch, a 
platform primarily used by gamers.

   The makeshift studio for the show is in a room with a long wooden table, 
walls decorated with Sanders campaign signs and tchotchkes including a Sanders 
action figure. Sanders sat down for an interview --- with his campaign manager, 
Faiz Shakir.

   "We are doing these livestreams, we are talking to you directly," Shakir 
said. "One of the reasons is while we appreciate our friends in the elite 
media, they don't often cover the issues that truly matter to working 
Americans."

   The livestream represents just one spoke in a communications network that 
his campaign, frustrated by the coverage he gets in traditional media, has 
built to exclusively promote the candidate's worldview. Since Sanders announced 
his second bid for the presidency in February, the campaign has started not 
just a twice-weekly livestreaming show, but also a sleekly produced podcast, 
"Hear the Bern," hosted by national press secretary Brihana Joy Gray. On the 
first episode of the podcast, Gray described it as a "behind the scenes look at 
how campaigns work, how political movements grow and what motivates the man who 
has reintroduced big, transformative ideas into politics."

   Candidates have long sought outlets to appeal directly to supporters without 
a media filter, and none more effectively than President Donald Trump. But 
Sanders' efforts have taken that approach a step further, and there's some 
evidence that people are watching and listening. His campaign says that the 
streaming show they aired before and after the first Democratic presidential 
debate had more than 300,000 views.

   "If you go on the premise that Bernie folks think they were boxed out of the 
mainstream party the last time around, I think the assumption that his folks 
made is they've just got to kind of build their own universe," said Joel Payne, 
a Democratic strategist who worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

   Sanders' campaign says he is to use the new platforms to anchor his base and 
to reach voters who may be disengaged with the political process currently but 
who could be animated by Sanders' ideas and policies.

   "This is different from a typical post on social media, which is putting out 
content. With the live show, we can actually have a conversation with people. 
It's bringing our supporters into the conversation, but also to bring people 
who may disagree with us into the conversation," said Josh Miller-Lewis, the 
campaign's digital director.

   In his second run for president, Sanders is finding that the attention he 
received in his run against Clinton is harder to come by in a field with two 
dozen candidates. By expanding Sanders' already robust social media presence 
with streaming shows where they have outsize control offers a test of whether 
he has found a new way to break through.

   "I think Bernie Sanders became accustomed to the level of news attention 
that a fresh face attacking the establishment normally gets and now thinks, 
(if) he got that attention in 2016, he should be getting it now, and, if not, 
there must be something wrong with the press," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, 
director of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

   His campaign also says it's a long-range strategy that looks ahead to a 
general election matchup with President Donald Trump. Miller-Lewis says he 
believes that anyone who wants to defeat Trump in 2020 has to be able to 
"challenge Trump's supremacy on digital platforms."

   In a recent episode of "The 99," three top Sanders aides spent an hour 
discussing whether Sanders was "too consistent for corporate media," at times 
dissecting individual headlines and stories they criticized.

   Ari Rabin-Havt, Sanders' chief of staff, argued that the media has a "bias 
for something new, for something exciting, for something salacious, and Bernie 
Sanders' continual history of standing up for these issues over 40 years is not 
new and exciting for people."

   In that way, his consistency may have hurt his desire to get more attention. 
"News is something that's new, and the best thing that Bernie has going for him 
is that he's consistent, that he's pushing for what he's always pushed for," 
said Rebecca Katz, a New York-based Democratic strategist. "The problem that 
Bernie has going for him is he's not making news, he's repeating news."

   Joe Trippi, a Democratic consultant who managed Howard Dean's 2004 
presidential campaign, has heard the kind of complaints the Sanders campaign is 
making.

   "Every politician who's ever had the problem of, it's not going very well 
and they're shrinking, complains about their coverage," Trippi said. "The 
question they need to ask themselves is, Is the coverage diminishing because 
his support's diminishing?"


(KR)

 
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