Mike Flynn, a Quincy native who is now editor-in-chief of the Big Government web site, has seen big changes in the way political advertising and news coverage has evolved.
Flynn has nearly 20 years experience in political campaigns, media relations and legislative affairs. He said in the early 1990s that candidates tried to place campaign ads on major TV networks’ top shows when about 20 million Americans would be watching. Flynn said the top shows on TV networks now may only have about half that size audience due to competing television choices.
Other political insiders have said the 2008 election was marked by the first major use of the internet, with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama receiving $28 million in online donations in January 2008 alone. Flynn said 2010 gets his vote for the first big internet election cycle because so many candidates were helped or hurt by online information.
The closest example of this involves U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, who lost to political newcomer Bobby Schilling. Hare said during a Quincy town hall meeting that “I’m not worried about the Constitution on this …” and a video of the exchange became a national internet sensation.
U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., ran into similar problems and lost his seat after he was caught on video in a nasty exchange with students asking whether he backed Obama’s agenda.
Flynn had his own part in the election loss of U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio. Flynn ran a column on Wilson’s divorce documents that allege spousal abuse. He said other reporters got that information in the past but to his knowledge, did not use it.
In explaining the attraction of the internet, Flynn describes “internet tribes” who go to sites they like and share information with friends and like-minded people.
Flynn said after a luncheon engagement with the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce that his boss, Andrew Breitbart, learned that racial issues can be tough to deal with. Breitbart drew international criticism after a video of Shirley Sherrod appeared to show the African American woman bragging about turning down a white farmer for government assistance. The post on Big Government led to Sherrod being fired from her job.
When a complete video later showed that Sherrod’s speech to the NAACP was longer and included a portion where she told how she did provide the white farmer with assistance, the Secretary of Agriculture offered reinstatement for Sherrod.
“He (Breitbart) was trying to make a nuanced comment about racism” in the Big Government post, Flynn said.
Breitbart was noting that the NAACP audience did not react negatively when Sherrod said she initially was not going to help the white farmer because of her own racial prejudices. Breitbart was trying to make the point that the NAACP was not credible when it labeled the tea party a racist movement based on the actions of a few non-representative activists.