Become a Member!

Meeting the Neighbors: Rep. Mark Pocan

Post by Jesse Russell on 1/19/2006 11:22am

pocan011906.jpgWhile a formal poll hasn’t been done, it is fairly safe to say that Madison may now have one of the highest numbers of politician’s blogging. In addition to Alder Brenda Konkel, both Larry Palm and Zach Brandon have fired up their own blogspot sites in recent weeks. Of course, possibly the most unique is the School Information System site, where multiple Madison school board members hold an open dialogue about what is going on with in-town public education. Of all of these, the highest ranking blogger in town is easily State Rep. Mark Pocan (at least, until we convince Beltway Baldwin to join the cheddarsphere). Dane101 sat down with Pocan last week to talk about why someone in his position would want to embark on such an endeavor.

One of the biggest reasons Pocan said he made this decision came from ongoing discussions with other legislators concerning the local section of the Wisconsin State Journal. Essentially, Pocan said the local news had become “one sheet of paper.”

To the politicians, it was becoming rare to see coverage of hearings and discussions that happened in the Capitol building. Having studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Pocan felt a desire to flex his dormant reporter muscles and fill that void.

Two big questions that are sure to crop up as more politicos start plugging in are when does blogging become campaigning? And what are the ethics of using taxpayer funded computers or office space to write your blog? Pocan says he is mindful of these issues and right now has no intention of using the blog for “campaign stuff.”

He said he is aware that when the legislature is out-of-session or when he is up for reelection, he may consider doing more than just observational writing. When that time comes he will have to consider his options.

While it isn’t clear if other representatives will jump in ([url= ]Rep. Frank Lasee[/url], R-District 2, and [url= ]Rep. Mark Gottlieb[/url], R-District 60 also run blogs. Rep. Scott Walker, R-District 14, runs a blog about his current run for Governor - it is assumed he doesn't use his office computer to write entries) Pocan says he has been receiving inquiries from staffers, “offices call us and ask questions about what’s ethical and unethical.”

Pocan said writing on the blog also gives him an opportunity to write about things that wouldn’t make sense in a press release. He used the example of a post he wrote called “[url= ]Will the real Mike Ellis please stand-up?[/url]” Pocan used the opportunity to write about Sen. Ellis waffling on his support for Gov. Jim Doyle’s ethics reform package. With the power of links and quotes at his fingertips, Pocan is able to tie together the timeline of the flip-flop, while in the past such a platform didn’t exist.

Pocan also uses the blog to write about observations he makes concerning the political process. He pointed out his piece on where [url= ]legislation is born[/url] concerning the connection between [url= ]Jessica’s Law[/url] and Bill O’Reilly.

In the post Pocan writes:


It once was that conservatives wrote legislation the old fashioned way - by getting model legislative drafts from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a corporate-driven organization which fronts as a conservative policy think tank, with members from big business and state legislatures. Their corporate masters write the legislation; conservatives introduce it. A simple business transaction.

However, now we find there is a new conservative legislative powerhouse in the making - FOX (or is it Faux?) News’ Bill O’Reilly. Yup, he's the “no-spin” blowhard who is always spinning Republican lies.

One thing many bloggers have to be ready for is criticism. While many blogs templates offer the option of shutting off comments, having them on adds a sense of credibility to the writer. It says you aren’t afraid of criticism and you can stand by your words. Pocan was aware of this possibility because shortly after starting his blog he received a call from Ed Garvey, founder of Garvey wanted to make sure Pocan knew what he was getting into by putting himself in the blogosphere. Pocan told Garvey he was ready for it, and judging by some of the comments on his posts, the schooling has come quickly.

Not only has he been criticized by the notorious chicken-poster, Anonymous, he has garnered the attention of some elite conservative bloggers including local blogger Jenna from [url= ]Right off the Shore[/url].

Will Pocan be able to keep up with the multiple posts a week deadline necessary to make a blog credible? Will some controversy erupt as more and more politicians put fingers to keys causing a collapse in the direct line to constituents experiment?

Only time will tell, meanwhile, as long as he keeps it interesting, we’ll keep reading.

UPDATE:: Kristian Knutsen also writes this morning about the burdgeoning politcal blog movement in Madison on the Daily Page, in a post titled, "Alder blogs: 3 out of 20 ain't bad."

Jesse Russell


Jesse was born and raised in Connecticut, began blogging in 1997, and moved to Madison in 2003. In 2005, he co-founded dane101 along with Kristian Knutson and Shane Wealti. In addition to helping nearly a dozen contributors run this website he's helped launch various events in the city including What's Your Damage?!, the MadPubQuiz of Awesomeness, the Fire Ball Masquerade, Dane101's Freakin' Halloweekend, and more.