Mirroring Campaign, DOJ Hires Blog Outreach Expert
By Mary Jacoby | May 27, 2009 4:43 pm

The Department of Justice —  the battered plaything of political bloggers during the Bush administration —  has hired a ”new media” outreach expert to steer the Obama administration through online policy debates over torture, Guantanamo Bay and whatever else comes up, reports Greg Sargent at The Plum Line.

The new position will be filled by Democratic communications expert Tracy Russo. Russo was chief blogger (yes, that was her real title) and deputy director of online communications for the John Edwards presidential campaign. We’ve asked DOJ Public Affairs Director Matt Miller, himself a long-time Democratic political aide, to let us know more about what Russo will be doing beyond keeping an eye out for brewing on-line tempests.

Tracy Russo

Tracy Russo

Until we hear back, we’ll just whistle a few tunes from this “blogger outreach” show we remember from our own years as a political reporter. We’re not saying this is how it will work at the DOJ. But in campaigns, the blogger “outreach” people are something like zoo keepers. At regular intervals, they open the online cages and throw in policy papers or news releases. Sometimes the campaigns even hold special blogger-only conference calls. 

Sated and happy (it’s so cool to have access!), and dazzled to have information from a source other than Google, the bloggers start writing fewer conspiracy theories. They become less hostile when the campaign’s paid bloggers join their online conversations. The paid campaign bloggers then subtly start spinning their candidates’ talking points.

Soon, the bloggers are as tame as the mainstream media (“MSM,” in blogger speak). They start going on TV. And to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.  Where they hobnob with the same Washington, D.C., insiders who once used to be the exclusive dates of the MSM. That’s right – the same MSM the bloggers once screamed were too close to their sources. Because they socialized with them. Just like the bloggers are now doing. And which the bloggers find is actually fun. And useful. So now it’s not so bad to go to the White House Correspondents Dinner, even if you’re a blogger.

You can read Russo’s bio from the Huffington Post below:

Tracy Russo, President of Russo Strategies,LLC, is well known for her online outreach work and her ability to integrate online communications and new media opportunities with all aspects of traditional campaigns and organizations. Advocating an approach that involves all aspects of the organization, she devises online communications strategies that exceed goals, enhance operations, and regularly engage a wide audience of activists, stakeholders and supporters.

As the Chief Blogger and Deputy Director of Online Communications for the John Edwards for President Campaign, she directed and executed an online communications and outreach strategy that targeted national, niche and local bloggers, online media outlets, social networks and activists. Her work has been routinely praised as the best in the field. She also helped to develop and execute an aggressive online fundraising strategy and mobile media plan.

Prior to joining the Edwards campaign, Russo worked at the Democratic National Committee where she wrote and edited the DNC blog and implemented a 50-state online outreach strategy. She advised Democratic candidates and state parties on ways to enhance their online communications and outreach capacities and effectively connect with the progressive blogosphere.

Russo is also the founder of WIPT, Women in Politics and Technology, an all women, member-driven organization that seeks to connect women working at the crossroads of politics and technology, provide support and resources to women in these industries and, encourage more women, especially young women, to enter the fields of politics and technology.

She has been a featured speaker at the Personal Democracy Forum, the YearlyKos Convention, the Take Back America Conference and the Center for American Progress’ Internet Advocacy Roundtable. In addition, she has trained hundreds of individuals in the best practices of online engagement in partnership with a variety of organizations, including the DNC, DLCC, EMILY’s List, George Washington University, the New Organizing Institute and Campaign and Elections Magazine. She is also a regular contributor to the award-winning blog at TechPresident.com.

Russo has a diverse professional background – she has worked in both the political and non-profit worlds, in a variety of roles from field organizer, to fundraiser, to press secretary – all of which inform her current work. She is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Boca Raton, Florida where she first began blogging in 1999.

UPDATE: Mary Jacoby wrote through an earlier version of this post by Farhan Daredia. The byline on it has since been changed.

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