Thursday, February 02, 2006

(Pod)Casting aspersions...

I'm just guessing here, but I figure probably 25 percent of county residents know what a podcast is, 10 percent have listened to one, and less than 0.1 percent (less than 3000 people) would listen to a weekly podcast delivered by our county executive--regardless of his or their party affiliation.

Which makes me wonder why James Robey's recent introduction of podcast as a means of communicating with county residents has drawn the ire of county Republicans and the Columbia Flier.

The podcast, which allows Internet users to hear pre-recorded material, amounts mostly to political commentary designed to promote Robey, who is a Democrat, and does not provide county residents useful and needed government information, Brian Harlin said.

"It's not public information. It's more campaign posturing," said Harlin, the chairman of the Howard County Republican Central Committee. "It's very interesting the way he is using his office for political purposes. It's shameless."

Shameless?! And I thought Harlin was supposed be a toned-down GOP chair.

How do podcasts amount to anything different than press releases, photo opportunities, press conferences, speeches, ribbon cuttings, and the myriad other activities one expects a county executive to engage in (and his communications office to coordinate)? Talk about misplaced priorities.

Aside from being totally innocuous, the podcasts aren't being forced upon the citizenry. Indeed, if you want to listen, you have to download them onto your personal MP3 player. Doesn't seem like a very effective political tool, if you ask me.

At least one local Republican sees how silly the Flier is making itself look by touting this story. David Wissing at the Hedgehog Report writes:
If you go to the White House website, or any other Department website in the Federal Government for that matter, there are new podcasts, videos, audio files, etc posted everyday that are supposed to be "“informational"”. Let'’s face it though, these are nothing more than promotional pieces for the party in power paid for the you and me. Being able to place items on the Government websites is one of the perks of winning.
I believe it's called "keeping up with the times," and the Flier, with its old, poorly designed, hard-to-navigate website, could actually learn a few things from Robey. That is, if it weren't too busy chasing and writing stories of no significance.

(I don't mean to be so harsh on the Flier [well, yes I do]. But Patuxent Publishing could really increase its value to our community if only it tried, which apparently it doesn't.)

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