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A New Spotlight Or Just Another Filter?

Attention reporters, producers and other media-types: if you thought your in-boxes were already clogged up with mass e-mail campaigns from organizations representing one point of view or another, wait until The Spotlight is turned your way. The Spotlight Project is a left-wing tool designed to enable users to communicate with individual members of the media. It's being rolled out as a feature on Firedoglake (of Ned Lamont fame) and promises to allow everyone to send a blog posting they like to any number of reporters, producers or shows, along with their own comments.

On the face of it, this sounds like a great way to communicate with individuals in the media. But in practice, it threatens to become something ineffective, if not counter-productive. Here's how it works: On participating blogs, each entry includes a "spotlight" tag and clicking that brings you to a site displaying the names of a large number of print, TV and radio types. If you want to send that particular entry to someone on that list (say the reporter whose article is being discussed), you click that name, add any others you'd like to send it to, make any comments of your own and send.

A savvy operator might take an interesting idea, thought or angle and send it to one or two reporters who might then somehow incorporate into their work – or at least think about it. But one would need a pretty hefty amount of knowledge about the press and the people in it to use that approach to target effectively. But will it more likely be used to flood journalists with yet more spam e-mail that simply ends up victim to the "delete" button?

It's much easier to take some snarky posting about an article and send it to the reporter who wrote it with some even snarkier words of your own. And this tool makes that very easy – about as easy as commenting directly to the blog post itself. After a few "swarms" hit the in-boxes, reporters will know what they're getting when they see anything from the spotlight project. Firedoglake's Hamsher seems to understand that danger, advising her readers:

  • Please be polite and reasonable. We don't want folks to get angry and up-in-arms over a bunch of ad hominem attacks.
  • Since it's a serious tool that could have a profound effect as we try to re-shape the dominant narrative with key opinion makers, abusing it could not only lessen its effectiveness, it could neutralize it completely.
  • Praise is just as important — if not more so — than criticism.
  • If folks can follow that advice, this project may shine a little light, but judging from past blogger clashes with the MSM, that remains a big "if."