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It’s one thing to attempt to generate positive coverage in print media and network television. It’s another to simply manufacture your own. In addition to With her, an entire section of the Clinton campaign website is devoted to showcasing Upworthy-style content. Most of the headlines are overtly pro-Clinton or anti-Trump, though at times the connection to the campaign is less obvious. Here are a few examples:
“Read the letter this Republican wrote to his daughter about Hillary Clinton.”
“Was this Donald Trump’s worst week ever?”
“How easy is it for a convicted felon to get a gun?”
“The Supreme Court just handed down a major abortion ruling. We can’t take this victory for granted.”
“Un veterano y congresista a quien le han dicho ‘regresa a México.’” (Some of the content appears in Spanish.)
Most of the headlines read like they could be coming from a left-leaning blog or website. The content is glowing. It’s inspirational. It’s ready-made for social media. The podcast achieves a similar effect by giving Clinton a chance to introduce herself and to sound relatable. In the first episode, co-host Max Linsky, who identifies himself as “a huge supporter of Secretary Clinton,” starts off with a disclaimer: “I’m not a journalist, and I’m not impartial.” He asks Clinton what an average day is like and what she thinks about before falling asleep. “Probably my grandchildren,” Clinton replies. “When I just can’t think about anything else because I’m just so burnt out, I’ll take my phone out and look at all the little videos and the pictures.”
Clinton isn’t so much breaking ground as she is modernizing political messaging. In various ways, she is building on what President Obama did while running for office. “With the Clinton campaign, it seems like they’ve basically paid attention to all the best practices from the previous few years and have updated them to fit the times,” said Jesse Baldwin-Philippi, a professor of new media at Fordham University, noting that the Obama campaign “had a blog where they highlighted what the campaign was doing in a way that got supporters to feel really connected to the campaign.”
It may be updated for the digital age, but the Clinton campaign’s media strategy fits the mold of time-worn political tradition: Make the candidate look good, and attempt to minimize any and all bad press.
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So, how likely is it that a campaign media strategy carries over into the White House? Presidents do have a certain degree of power to set terms of engagement with the press. Obama, for example, also seems to prefer interviews over press conferences. But even if a president attempts to meet the press on terms that will be favorable to him or her, that doesn’t mean a commander-in-chief could easily shun the media. “That would be unlikely, not just based on tradition, but based on self-interest,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidency scholar who writes about White House communications.