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Politicians turn to social media: No filter, no follow-ups

Posted January 27

— President Donald Trump is such a Twitter aficionado that he is sometimes referred to as "tweeter-in-chief." But other politicians are also bypassing traditional media and turning to social media to communicate with people.

Gov. Roy Cooper, for example, chose to spell out his legislative priorities this week in a post on a social media site called Medium instead of in a press release. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger then responded with a Facebook post.

"This is, I'm sorry, sort of old school at this point," Berger, R-Rockingham, said with a laugh about holding news conferences at the General Assembly.

Similarly, former Gov. Pat McCrory sometimes used YouTube as a substitute for news conferences.

The advantage of social media, Berger said, is that his message doesn't get cut down to a sound bite.

"If we have something to say, we can say it in our own voice and using the language that we want to convey. I think that's helpful," he said.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter added that social media lets the governor reach people directly.

"The goal is to communicate and listen to more taxpayers," Porter said. "People are getting their information, learning about their public figures, from a lot more different outlets. So, there’s more for us to do."

Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said social media can help leaders connect with constituents, but it also allows them to put out their points unchallenged.

"Rarely does any public servant give you the unvarnished truth. I mean, it may not be alternative facts, but it’s at least going to be spin," Greene said. "When viewers think they can just get it all straight from the politician, we're really losing an important check."

When McCrory conceded the election in early December after weeks of challenging vote counts, he did it in a YouTube video, which allowed him to avoid having to answer questions from reporters.

"In a well-functioning democracy, it is essential that our public servants – because they are public servants – need to be responsive to the people, and the media in this case is the representative of the people," Greene said. "We need to be able to ask those questions.

"If you're going to put out the tweets, the Facebook, the YouTube, fine. But if you're doing that instead of talking to the press, that's a problem," he continued.

Cooper and Berger continue to meet with reporters but use social media to augment their message to constituents.

Another potential pitfall of social media is that it can go awry pretty quickly.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, both issued apologies this week after posting material many people found offensive.

Berger said politicians have to be careful about how they use social media.

"There are all sorts of examples of Twitter going awry, and yeah, that’s a concern," he said.

8 Comments

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  • Dolly Butler Jan 30, 8:14 p.m.
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    People are lazy today and just don't care about good government ...to do the work. Reading a Tweet and no Q&A ...not very educational about the subject ...we need to insist upon more

  • Kenneth Jones Jan 28, 11:56 a.m.
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    Due to a dishonest media, it is absolutely necessary... Only way to get the truth out to the American people and the world... MAGA

  • Alan Ward Jan 28, 4:31 a.m.
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    Good for them! Gone are the days when the media gets to set the tone and determine what the public should or should not hear.

  • Linda Tally Jan 27, 11:14 p.m.
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    I don't object to the new medium, but without questions and follow-up from reporters it puts all the burden of placement, context, and slant recognition squarely on the receiving public. The past election results have made me seriously doubt the U.S. Public's ability to do all that in their own minds. But we shall see.

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Jan 27, 8:57 p.m.
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    Poor lil Press Pools...

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Jan 27, 8:55 p.m.
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    Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,
    Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,
    Thursday, Friday, Happy Days,
    The weekend comes, my cycle hums
    Ready to race to you
    These days are ours
    Happy and free. (Oh Happy Days) These days are ours Share them with me.(Oh baby) Goodbye grey sky, hello blue, there's nothing can hold me when I hold you. feels so right you can't be wrong, rockin' and rollin' all week long.

  • Carol Smith Jan 27, 7:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    Everything berger says and does is awry!

  • Wayne Smith Jan 27, 4:58 p.m.
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    I like this trend, it keeps the media from filtering comment while editorializing. It prevents content from being spun out of context as well.