By: Karim Mostafa

One Newspaper Tries Free Web Sites For Candidates

NEW ORLEANS – Four years ago, presidential candidates who actually had
campaign Web sites were considered technologically hip, but it wasn’t
central to their campaigns. Now the 2000 presidential race is heating
up online and, according to panelists at E&P’s Interactive Newspapers
Conference, John McCain is quickly becoming the new posterboy for
online campaigning.

Since his triumph in New Hampshire’s primary Feb. 1, McCain has raised
$3 million in campaign financing through his Web site. The Arizona
senator also used the Internet to recruit 7,000 volunteers to make
phone calls in New Hampshire before the vote.

Jesse Ventura’s campaign for Minnesota governor in 1998 was the first
to really succeed by using the Internet, says Doug Bailey, CEO of A closer look at the demographics of those who
voted for McCain reveal similarities to Ventura’s supporters: tech-

savvy, wired youth and disenfranchised Independent voters.

‘So far McCain’s got a business plan that Jeff Bezos would covet,’ says
Mike Riley, editor at The Roanoke (Va.) Times and former executive
producer of

Some of the candidates just don’t get the Web. Texas Gov. George W.
Bush has an Internet presence, but it hasn’t been central to his
campaign, Bailey says. Bush’s site does, however, daily update every
dollar that has been raised for his nomination bid.

As political candidates become more familiar with the Web, ‘There is a
capacity to democratize and decentralize politics, with the potential
to cut out middlemen like newspapers, television, and magazines,’ Riley

Riley suspects demand will increase for digital journalists who are
capable of playing across the mediums of text, video, audio, and
online. ‘There will be evidence of McCain sending 70,000 e-mails; it’s
just a matter of finding it,’ he says.

There will be other changes in how political news is gathered. Town
Online, owned by Community Newspapers Co. of Needham, Mass., launched a
program this week offering local political candidates free Web sites.
Timothy B. Gassert, vice president of new media content, says the sales
department marketed the idea to political candidates for a year, but it
didn’t work. In the first week of the free program version, four
politicians have expressed interest in building their political sites
on a co-branded site with CNC.

Gassert says the content guidelines for the candidates require that
information be only about a candidate’s campaign and no mention can be
made of an opponent., a non-partisan, non-profit, political news site,
compiles video content provided by political candidates and party
committees. The Web site organizes the content according to issues such
as Social Security, education, and abortion. The site does not edit the
content, Bailey says.

As more and more of these informational sites appear online, Riley
believes the editor becomes important again as the navigator amidst an
information overload.

For publications without the resources for their own political coverage
online, there are editorial packages to be had. Capitol Advantage and
The Associated Press are offering AP member Web sites the AP Election
Center for the upcoming elections. Included in the package are state-

by-state ballot summaries, candidate profiles, Congressional voting
records, and real-time results on election night.


Karim Mostafa ( is assistant
editor of Editor & Publisher Online.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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