Today’s Sunday New York Times Magazine profile details Obama chief strategist David Axelrod and his 1984 decision to abandon journalism for campaign consulting. In the last couple of weeks, another ex-journalist has joined the Obama camp. Official campaign blogger Sam Graham-Felsen was until recently a free-lance writer for the Nation– his Nation bio states that “since March 2007, he has been on leave” while working on the campaign; his first post for Obama was March 19. (On Saturday I mentioned the back-and-forth between Obama critic Paul Simon Democrat and Graham-Felsen.)
Graham-Felsen the journalist was clearly enthused by Obama. He wrote several articles about, and in favor of, the young Senator.
Eyebrows will always rise when a journalist accepts a job within an industry or with a company that she has been covering. Such professional transitions are surely common and acceptable occurrences, provided that the relevant parties make it clear that the two roles do not overlap.
On the surface, certainly, there is no reason to doubt the motives of Graham-Felsen, the campaign or the Nation. The most likely scenario: a web-savvy and talented young writer with an expressed appreciation for Obama’s appeal came to the attention of the campaign and a job offer ensued and Graham-Felsen stopped reporting on Obama and the campaign. Nevertheless, a brief review of Graham-Felsen’a Obama journalism:
In February, he penned Obama’s Impressive Youth Roots, a paean to the campaign’s web appeal and a look at a rally at George Mason University. (The campaign itself linked to the article.)
Obama’s youth following is more than a bunch of kids who clicked a button. Before the rally, Obama’s campaign already knew they had a massive presence on Facebook. Students for Barack Obama (SFBO) had around 60,000 members, and even more astonishingly, a 26-year-old named Farouk Olu Aregbe had assembled more than 200,000 in his Facebook group “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)” in little more than two weeks (the group now has more than 272,000 members). According to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, the growth was “unprecedented.” As a point of comparison, the Facebook group for Hillary Clinton has fewer than 4,000 students and the largest group for John Edwards has half that…[Obama’s] campaign has allowed a youth-led grassroots following to sprout organically without interference. … by attending the George Mason rally, Obama signaled to students that he respects their ability and power as organizers, and acknowledges what a grassroots youth movement could bring to his campaign. It’s clear that Obama will have to run a nontraditional, decentralized campaign if he wants to see this kind of energy flourish. He’ll have to communicate consistently and directly with students, in their medium….If Obama can show his young followers that he’s still that grassroots organizer–a rock star perhaps, but one who listens to, trusts and empowers his base to come on stage and rock with him–it’s going to be one hell of a show.
Also in February in the Nation, he wrote “Obama Steps Up on Iraq.”
Obama already has a massive and growing youth following, and this announcement can only add to Generation Y’s Obamamania. Young people are pining for something new–and now they’ve got more than a guy who gives great speeches about the future. Now they’ve got a guy who’s offering a concrete policy change on the most pressing issue of their generation.
Obama’s got the youth vote locked up, and with his new announcement, he may have the Netroots and the grassroots anti-war left behind him as well. These are three extremely powerful bases of support– folks who won’t simply vote, but also volunteer, blog, organize, and raise money.
if Obama decides to run, he will have a tremendous base in young people. Obama would likely draw an unprecedented number of new young voters to the polls, and he would amass a huge volunteer core (one that would make the Deaniacs look like the Teeniacs).
As far as I can tell, he is by far the political superstar of the moment—and perhaps ever—for Generation Y.
In a comment to that post, he added,
In interviews I’ve done with young people, casual discussions, based on my reactions to young people listening to Obama speak, I’ve never seen anything like the amount of excitement he’s produced.
There is no indication that Graham-Felsen reported anything but the truth as he saw it, hyperbolic though it may be at times. Nevertheless, readers deserve a statement from the Nation assuring us that Graham-Felsen had no relationship or understanding with the campaign whilst covering the 08 elections.
(I searched for, but failed to find, an email address for Graham-Felsen on the Obama and Nation web sites, or anywhere else.)
(Cross-posted from ObamaMedia.)