Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fear and Blogging On the Campaign Trail

This is an exciting medium, the depths of which have not yet been fully explored.  Direct contact.  Self publication.  That's radical.  In earlier days, and for anyone who has not invested in the conversation, those who had something to say had to hope a larger medium was interested enough in the subject (and their view) to pick it up.  Facebook and Twitter supplant this somewhat, but 21st Century readers still want some measure of curation.  My humble opinion is that the standard of curation breaks two ways - Ideology or Credibility.  You either read to feed your ideology or you select content providers based on credibility.  I would like to think that I have earned your time and readership on the basis of the latter (although my critics [who more often than not are also readers] would posit the former).

I am very careful with my credibility.  As you may expect, there are a great number of people who say "write about this" both online and offline.  I respect their suggestions, but if it isn't "from me", I can't write credibly about it.  There are also those who say "You shouldn't write that" or (more recently) "You shouldn't have written that".  The governor on those matters is a little more flexible, but at the same time, the criticism is comparable to interrupting a conversation, turning to one of the two people speaking and saying "don't answer that".  It leaves both sides feeling a little weird.  The one speaking is frustrated and the one listening feels as if things are being hidden from them.  This is often represented in the comment "I'm surprised you didn't write about _____."

But on June 18th, I will be declaring my candidacy for public office.  I've spoken with at least two dozen people about this and in about 70% of those conversations, they ask "So what happens to the blog?"  It's like I'm moving to an apartment and own a dog.

I'm not shutting it down.  In light of recent circumstances, I just can't.  More importantly, I see the blog as an "exciting medium, the depths of which have not yet been fully explored."  The blog is coming on the campaign trail and, should I be fortunate enough to win, going to be a part of that future service as well.  CA Board Recaps opened my eyes to the opportunity presented in breaking down filters between the deliberation of decision makers and the communities they serve.  There are tremendous risks involved, and I have made mistakes, but overall the response has been very positive.  Admittedly, these are some of my least read posts (comparatively), but I also find them to be my most impactful.  They are a source of pride and part of my service to the community.  I don't like getting up at 5:45 a.m., after getting home at 11:30 p.m., from the previous meeting, but those posts make it worth it.

Nevertheless, things will have to change.  Harry Schwartz posted a question about the future of this blog yesterday that merits a full response:

[W]hat happens to Tom Coale's voice when he becomes a "partisan"? Obviously, you are "nonpartisan" now, although not without clear political affiliation. Do you lose some of your street cred once you announce for public office as a party standard-bearer?

As I responded, I hope to keep my "street cred", but believe this will rest entirely on how conscientious I am about what I write and, more importantly, what I do not write.  It goes back to credibility.  If you all need to spend even a minute thinking about whether a certain post was motivated by my interest in pleasing one person or earning political points, that is a minute tearing down my credibility as a writer, community member, and friend.  I don't want to put you through that, and have no interest in inviting those kinds of accusations.

Sadly, this means I'm going to have to give up parts of this hobby that I love.  No more comments on individual races, the strategy of candidates, or the quirky things people do when trying to make themselves into something "bigger".  I just can't.  Yesterday's post was tough.  Thankfully, I received barbs from both the right and the left (my personal metric for whether it was a fair post), but I can expect that a good number of you took that "minute" described above thinking about whether I was put up to this by someone else...and whether there was "something in it for Tom."  We can't have that.

In preparing for this journey, I have had to give up many things that I care about, but these sacrifices are in pursuit of something greater.  The key is making those sacrifices worthwhile and I have every intention of doing so.  I can't wait to talk to you about it next Tuesday.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!  (Stay safe.)  Rock on.