Keeping Obama Plugged In
CHICAGO: While visiting the Windy City for the Yearly Kos blogapalooza, we stopped by Sen. Barack Obama's headquarters to meet his new media team. It's young, like most of the rest of Obama's jean-wearing, T-shirt clad, mostly casually dressed staff. Joe Rospars, the team's boss, is 26 and directs a staff of more than a dozen. But it's also quite experienced. Rospars was part of Howard Dean's Internet team and served as online director for the Democratic National Committee.
One of Rospars' deputies is Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, the popular networking site. Hughes oversees MyBarackObama.com, Obama's very own soc-net (social networking sites), and you can see the similarities between Facebook's design and feel and MyBarackObama. Another deputy is Scott Goodstein, who keeps track of Obama's presence on soc-nets such as MySpace. In addition, Goodstein looks after the campaign's text messaging plans. If you found yourself lost in Chicago -- it's a big town -- over the weekend for Yearly Kos, you could text YKOS to OBAMA and ask for directions. (Yes, there's actually a staffer, a veritable Googling monkey, whose job it was to answer each text. We met him. He's normal.)
What's most striking about Obama's new media team has been its success in marrying online enthusiasm with offline activism. An example of this is a feature on Obama's site, rolled out just a few days ago, called South Carolina headquarters. Supporters in South Carolina can fill out an online form -- e-mail address, phone number, zip code -- then a field organizer in South Carolina will subsequently contact you. An online connection turns into offline action.
"That's really the goal. If there's one word that describes our site, it would be 'transparent,'" Rospars, who's one of the online political operatives we profiled earlier this year, told us. "There's a lot of stuff going on, and we try to put different hooks out there for folks to latch on."
-- Jose Antonio Vargas
Posted at 4:25 PM ET on Aug 7, 2007
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