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In the 1990s, talk radio was crucial to disseminating the ideas of the Republican revolutionaries. Today, House GOP Conference Vice Chairman Jack Kingston (Ga.) believes that the blogosphere is poised to become the next big thing in the GOP communication machine’s armada.
“If you look at what blogs have impacted, from the Swift Boat situation to the Dan Rather retirement, they are very effective,” Kingston said. In the past three years, 100,000 Web logs have grown into 29 million, according to Kingston.
With that in mind, Kingston’s “Theme Team,” a group of 85 Members responsible for helping articulate the House Republican message, is convening a workshop on the blogosphere in Rayburn 2181 (the Education and the Workforce Committee room) at 10 a.m. Friday.
The seminar — covering everything from “What is a blog?” to strategies for pitching stories and ideas to bloggers — will feature discussions with bloggers from such conservative sites as TownHall.com and Human Events Online.
In addition, attendees will hear from some of Washington’s top blog watchers and from fellow House aides whose bosses are at the forefront of outreach to the blogosphere, including Ken Spain, the press secretary to avid blogger and podcaster Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Brad Dayspring, the communications director for Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) who last month helped organize the first-ever House hearing open to live blogging. RNC eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini will also participate.
During the two-hour session, participants can expect some comic relief.
Comedian Stephen Colbert, who is planning to be on the Hill Friday taping interviews for “The Colbert Report’s” “Better Know a District” segment, is slated to drop by the event to pitch his Comedy Central show, which each week spotlights a different House Member and district. (Kingston, who sat for the first installment of Colbert’s series, invited the TV host.)
Kingston said the extensive coverage that his 8-point “American Renewal Project” — the Georgia Republican’s personal vision for a House GOP agenda — received on blogs such as RedState.com is proof that blogs can be used to disseminate ideas traditional media overlooks. RedState.com averages about 40,000 hits per day.
“It’s another tool in the tool belt,” said Kingston spokesman David All, adding that his boss is “Mr. Skeptical when it comes to the mainstream media.”
Still, Kingston said any entry into the blogosphere carries some risks.
“Like any form of communication it can be a two-way street,” Kingston conceded. A memo to be distributed at the event includes the warning that “there could and probably will be criticism and questions from the Right so choose your issues well” when pitching “friendly” bloggers.
Kingston — who keeps not only a personal blog but also a diary that’s posted on RedState.com — isn’t just aiming to convince his Congressional colleagues that they should embrace the blogosphere. He’s also talked to President Bush about holding the inaugural presidential conference call for bloggers and plans to follow up with a letter to the White House.
Dayspring, for his part, believes that Friday’s session, which is closed to the press, will mark “a giant step forward” in the effort to strengthen the relationship between Congressional press secretaries and bloggers.