St. Anselm Student Draws National Attention With Political Blog

This story was written by Aimee Lim, The Dartmouth
When not working on papers, projects and a thesis, Brian Lawson of Massachusetts, a senior at Saint Anselm College, is an avid political blogger with subscribers ranging from national media sources to everyday New Hampshire citizens.

Writing under the Seinfeld-inspired blog name "Cosmo Kramer," Lawson has made his blog, "New Hampshire Presidential Watch," an extensive online resource for news about the New Hampshire primary.

Lawson describes the blog as an "information clearing house," which provides readers with the latest news on state political activity, including summaries and locations of campaign events. The website is a treasure chest of details for primary fanatics, and features everything from endorsement updates and candidate profiles to New Hampshire visit counts for each candidate since 2004.

The blog has become so prominent that, on the night of the primaries, Lawson is scheduled to speak on both the television program "Dan Rather Reports" and National Public Radio about the primary results.

Lawson, who began working on the site in August 2006 with a former roommate, said that he did not anticipate its current popularity.

"We were just looking for something to keep us busy," he said. "We just came up, and we thought, 'We're in New Hampshire, and the primaries are a pretty important part of the process here.'"

The world of political blogging requires constant awareness and the gathering and analysis of information, Lawson said.

"So far, no one has ever told me that I missed something that they wanted me to put up," Lawson said, describing the blogging process as "basic."

Lawson's position on various press lists allows him to obtain information directly from the campaigns, he said. He also reaches out to political organizations for campaign news.

In the earlier stages of the presidential race, Lawson had to research campaign issues largely on his own. Primary season, however, has brought the campaigns to him, as organizers ask Lawson to post important updates. Lawson said that he has had to become careful about prioritizing the information he chooses to display online as the New Hampshire primary date draws closer.

Lawson has handled all kinds of feedback from readers, including the occasional complaint about what a reader perceives to be an unfair post.

"I've really developed a pretty tough spine," he said. "There's always going to be people who, no matter what I do, just won't be happy about anything."

In addition to dealing with comments from the general public, Lawson said he occasionally rejected requests of campaigners who ask him to post information that he feels is not right for his blog.

Balancing schoolwork and maintaining the blog, Lawson said, has not been easy. In order to maintain progress on his thesis, which remains his top priority, Lawson sometimes needs to actively pull himself away from blogging.

"I just tell myself, for the next two hours, don't go near your computer because you'll want to work on the site," he said.

Lawson's passion for the political process began with Bill Clinton's impeachment, he said.

"I remember just being really intrigued by that process. That kind of sparked my interest in politics," he said.

Since then, Lawson's interests have shifted to discussing the influence of politics and exploring the processes behind the campaigns, such as structural organization.

A politics major, Lawson said he has learned the most about the primaries outside the classroom.

"For me, it's interesting just because I'm actually involved so much in the primaries. In one way, I feel like academic work gets in the way," he said.

In addition to the New HampshirePresidential Watch, Lawson also researches news sources for NHNewsLinks. As for his own thoughts on the 2008 presidential race, Lawson said he predicts former Governor Mitt Romney R-Mass., and Senator Hillary Clinton D-N.Y., will be the eventual candidates, though current polls favor former Senator John McCain R-Ariz., and Senator Barack Obama D-Ill.

"I'm sticking with my original position just because everyone else is switching," he said.

Beginning the Wednesday after the New Hampshire primary, Lawson will begin work for the New Hampshire political site PolitickerNH, shifting his focus to local state politics. For now, however, primary night is "consuming my life," Lawson states in his blog profile.

Lawson hopes that his new role at PolitickerNH will keep him busy for several years.

"And then I'll just take it from there," he said.
© 2008 The Dartmouth via U-WIRE