What online media do politicians read?
April 22, 2016 5:51 AM   Subscribe

I don't know any politicians well enough to ask this, so I don't know if it is even a reasonable question, but what online stuff do politicians read?

I mean, Reddit has hundreds of millions of users, but I don't really see a David Cameron or V Putin as redditors. And apart from that one guy, I can't think of any mefites in politics. Do they just sit on facebook and twitter? Does John McCain comment under a anon username on Jane's Defence site? Is Obama reading the comments on Imgur?
If it helps, I guess the genesis for this is thinking the way I get to know people's unfiltered, or at least, less filtered opinions these days is via web sites, so I wondered what opinions the politicians were reading.
posted by bystander to Law & Government (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
People like David Cameron and Vladimir Putin don't have to read newspapers. They have an entire staff of news-gatherers to brief them. They are essentially getting their own news organization. In my experience, this is true of US state governors as well. I think legislators read more, but still not as much as you'd think. Even state legislators have staffs of several people charged with gathering information.

Also, most politicians are older men, who aren't as likely to use the internet anyway. MSM is common - you'll read the Times, the Post for federal officials, maybe the WSJ, the local paper of record (in Ohio, the Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch), and maybe your hometown paper. Younger politicians might be a little more active in terms of reading blogs, Vox, Slate, etc, but probably not *that* much more.

Finally, consider that, even if they're reading Reddit or MeFi or some random policy blog, they're probably not commenting. They are reluctant to communicate outside official channels. Imagine if David Cameron did have a burner Reddit account and posted something controversial. The rest of the media would immediately seize on it to talk about whether some throwaway comment is the official position of the UK Government. It would create a firestorm. If he really had something to say, why wouldn't he just call a press conference to announce it?
posted by kevinbelt at 6:21 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dailykos has had quite a few current elected officials contribute and sometimes converse. Sometimes it's obviously a staffer posting what is essentially a press release, and they don't really engage. However, other times it's quite clear that it's the genuine article on the other side of the screen engaging with the kossacks.

I can recall John Kerry being on quite a few times during his presidential campaign; Harry Reid, DWS, I think, Alan Grayson, and many other back bench congresspersons. But rather than rack my brain, here's what Wiccapeedia sez:
Since its creation Daily Kos has grown to become the largest liberal community blog in the United States, with over 215,000 registered users and 2.5 million unique viewers per month as of August 2009. . . . [It has] attracted the attention of many Democratic senators, members of Congress, governors and candidates who have posted on the site, including Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, former President Jimmy Carter, and President Barack Obama.
posted by Herodios at 6:24 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in Ottawa, and have (had) a number of friends whose jobs involve going through various news outlets and clipping things of relevance to the ministers in their gov't departments, for what that's worth.
posted by kmennie at 6:41 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I interned for a state legislator and besides the state newspapers, the main news source he talked about was The Drudge Report. Here's background info on the site if you're unfamiliar with it.
posted by Deflagro at 6:51 AM on April 22, 2016

Even state legislators have staffs of several people charged with gathering information.

Just to note that this varies strongly from one chamber to another and that several have no personal staff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whatever their staff or friends send them and say they should read.


Market sites if they have money.

Gossip sites - Drudge, etc.
posted by MattD at 7:59 AM on April 22, 2016

I lived and worked in DC for the first decade of the 2000s. I did scientific research under NIH grants and, as part of that work, contributed to science policy work on the Hill.

From that limited but interior perspective, the politicians I encountered did very little reading of primary material on their own. They had people like me who distill huge amounts of information, run it through a professional filter, and then present incredibly short summaries for them to consume.

Obviously this relaxes the lower down the hierarchy one goes. In my home state recently there was a scandal about a judge who let out a bunch of confidential information by joking about it online in various forums (he's in prison now, mostly for a different crime).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2016

One of my first jobs (as a civil servant) involved clipping articles/coverage of relevance for the ministry/minister. That was pre-internet -- so I had piles and piles of paper to look at -- but there are still "clippings packages" compiled and distributed -- just not so much actual paper!
posted by Lescha at 9:50 AM on April 22, 2016

The deputy leader of the UK opposition, Tom Watson has a Metafilter account.
Although I don't see much recent activity, Not sure if he still visits.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2016

I found this Ars article to be enlightening about the future president
...Reid [the State Department's coordinator for security infrastructure, ed.] found that using the desktop computer within the SCIF for e-mail was not in Clinton's comfort zone:

"As I had been speculating, the issue here is one of personal comfort…[Secretary Clinton] does not use a computer, so our view of someone wedded to their e-mail (why doesn't she use her desktop when in the SCIF?) doesn't fit this scenario..."
What online media does Clinton read? None. She doesn't go online. At all. Not even for email. Good thing she won't have to deal with issues like net neutrality, Snowdon, encryption backdoors...

what opinions the politicians were reading

none but what their very rich friends and advisors are telling them.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2016

I've worked in and near politics on and off for the last decade or so and like others say, it really, really varies, just like with any group of people. But pretty much, internet habits of politicians are pretty much what you'd expect for a group of extremely busy professionals. (Successful) politicians are pretty much working constantly, and most of that work involves meeting with people face-to-face or over the phone, rather than sitting in front of a computer for a long period of time. They spend their days in meeting with staff, other elected officials, and constituents, and in the evenings they are often at community events or things like that. Not a lot of time for reddit.

That said, I know a few local elected officials (basically, city council or state representative level) and they are, not surprisingly, total political junkies - they have pretty active FB or twitter accounts that they run themselves and post a lot of articles about local politics or issues they care about.

What online media does Clinton read? None. She doesn't go online. At all. Not even for email.

That's a pretty odd interpretation of that article. It looks like Clinton does go online, just not on a desktop. Which sounds like a lot of people, actually.
posted by lunasol at 1:28 PM on April 22, 2016

Another DC person here. A lot of people on The Hill and in the government read Politico, and more specifically whatever Politico Pro email is most relevant. They cover national politics incredibly quickly and really get in the weeds on public policy news.

Also: BNA, CQ (Congressional Quarterly), and The Hill.
posted by forkisbetter at 3:05 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Economist
posted by colin_l at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2016

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