About a decade ago, I collected every single political fax that came into the newsroom from elected officials. A year’s worth of faxes created a stack about eight inches tall.
My point was that, with email an easy alternative, politicians were wasting a lot of time and paper on press releases that said, more often than not, “Look how great I am.” It was ridiculous, but it worked. The volume slowed considerably over the next year. Today, faxes are a rare bird indeed.
Emails, on the other hand, are not. I don’t mind most of the time. It’s easy enough to scan them and get rid of them with a single click. As things go, it’s certainly an easier option and one that costs everyone involved a lot less time and resources.
With 23 Democratic candidates roaming Iowa in search of support for their presidential bids, it’s not surprising that there has been a sharp increase in spam reaching my inbox. It wouldn’t be all that hard for the campaigns to realize that they should probably have different lists for press releases announcing Iowa visits and those for, say, California. It would not be possible for me to care less which candidate is visiting LA for a campaign swing.
But there’s one type of email that still drives me nuts, and it seems to have proliferated this year. Some candidates have failed to realize that sending campaign fundraising emails to reporters is entirely inappropriate. And there are far too many of those coming in.
I don’t donate to campaigns. Period. I view it as an inappropriate blurring of the lines for me as a journalist. Doesn’t matter who the candidate is, it’s not going to happen.
If a campaign is too lazy to separate out the lists for donors and reporters, I have to question whether it’s going to be too lazy to do the work required if it wins.
Most campaigns seem to understand the difference. The ones I get are largely from the minor candidates, the ones desperate for any mention or attention. That’s part of the reason I’m not naming specific campaigns here. They are also the ones who seem to have hired people who haven’t run campaigns on this kind of stage before. So it’s not entirely surprising that rookies are making rookie mistakes.
Lines like that are particularly important in today’s climate. Far too may people automatically assume anyone working in media has an undeclared agenda. There are several problems with that thinking, starting with the idea that work at a mid-sized daily paper in Iowa is anything like working as an overpaid talking head at a major network. I’m paid to tell my community’s story, everything from sitting through meetings of elected officials to a run over to the Canteen for a local interest bit.
And, honestly, what’s happening in Ottumwa and the surrounding communities is a lot more interesting to me than whether social media comments portend Armageddon, as the yapping on television so often suggests. If I want to make a side trip into apocalyptic nonsense, I’ll watch the next episode of “Good Omens.” (Both the book and the new miniseries are well worth a look, by the way.)
I’m not going to collect those emails the way I did the faxes years ago, either. They’re simply too easy to get rid of.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to clean out my inbox.