As Rep. Ed Royce left a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in 2009, he wondered whether anyone was actually paying attention.
“Does anyone really follow that on C-SPAN?” the California Republican thought.
He decided they don’t. And if he wanted to get attention paid to the issues his committee covers, he’d have to get the word out himself.
“It struck me that it would be much easier to read blog posts than to try to follow a hearing,” he said.
And so “Foreign Intrigue” was born.
Royce, chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, is clear about the blog’s mission: to inform the reader about news items that catch Royce’s eye.
“There is a lot to keep track of,” the introduction to the blog reads. “I’ll try and keep it to material that is free and unique — so you’ll keep coming back.”
Royce’s first post in February 2009, “Missiles on the Mind,” was a good indicator of what was to come. He linked to a couple of editorials from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and interjected a little commentary about North Korea.
Since that first post, he’s written regularly on his blog, which is hosted on his House website. He has posted more than 250 times, covering everything from President Barack Obama’s state visits to the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter.
He still uses other platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to reach out to constituents. But the blog posts allow him to craft his own words into something more substantial than a 140-character sound bite or a status update.
Even with a busy calendar, it’s relatively easy to write a post every few days, he said.
“I don’t blog every day because I don’t have the discipline to do that,” Royce said with a laugh. “I keep them short. Usually something agitates, and I seize on that opportunity.”
Once the post is done, someone on his staff edits it before it’s uploaded to the website. Royce said it’s a pretty open-door policy: If it isn’t good, the staffer tells him to try again.
“They’ll say, ‘Ed, you don’t want to say that. Take another crack at it,’ which I appreciate,” he said.
The News Cycle
Anyone who might wonder how seriously Royce takes blogging should glance at his business card. The link to “Foreign Intrigue” is in bold gold lettering across the bottom.
“I had to cajole somebody to get it on there,” he said. “I had to convince them that somebody would actually go to the blog.”
Royce said the best part about blogging is that he has a say in what matters.
“You find yourself frustrated when the media is not giving sufficient coverage to something, instead focusing on Snooki and ‘Jersey Shore’ and Anthony Weiner,” he said.
He can’t control the news cycle, but he can give his own feedback on an event.
“People will take the time to read a blog posting and then have a better understanding of the challenge that we face,” he said.
He said he thinks it’s a better outlet than the traditional opinion pieces his colleagues often submit to publications, which he also used to do. After he writes a post, his staff will send out the link. His blog has even been linked to from websites such as the Daily Caller and the Heritage Foundation.
By putting up posts on different outlets, Royce is able to get something he doesn’t receive on his House site: feedback.
“You Sunk My Battleship” appeared on the Heritage Foundation’s website in May 2010. He detailed the various moves Obama should make concerning North Korea: “A2. Show of force. Increase combined U.S. and South Korean naval and other military exercises in the region. Identify South Korean defense needs and fast-track weapons sales.”
Diane Watson, a constituent of Royce’s, commented, “Thank you Ed, for representing my district in Fullerton. Common sense and specifics are refreshing from a politician.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, commenter Polly Walker criticized the post.
“But the use of the Battleship game tag, imagery and numbers is in truly poor taste. ... I expected better from a Republican politician who probably would not show such disrespect for his own country’s military,” she wrote.
And sometimes, the blog comes up when he least expects it.
While buying a suit in his district, the man taking Royce’s measurements mentioned that he was keeping up with the posts and looked forward to the updates.
Several of his constituents are interested in issues such as Darfur, and they’ll reference past blog posts when they discuss these issues with his staff.
Little moments like that make the work worth it, Royce said.
He likes to make sure his constituents aren’t the only people who know what he’s writing about. He brings printed copies of his posts to meetings and gives them out to his fellow Members.
“I hope they’re good-natured about it,” he said. “I have forced some of my postings on some of my comrades on both sides of the aisle.”