MEMBERS OF of Congress have finally embraced the Web, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, and they are hiring new-media experts to help extend their reach.
The trend reflects many lawmakers' growing awareness of the Internet's importance to campaigns and of their constituents' increasing desire to connect and gather information on the Web. Further driving the change are an influx of Capitol Hill freshmen familiar with the new tools, and fresh rules that allow members to post on third-party websites.
"The level of member interest in new media has never been higher," said Matt Lira, director of new media for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Lira describes his job as making sure that "the whip operations integrate new media with everything we do as much as possible." He notes that one of the defining characteristics of Barack Obama's presidential campaign was that he integrated the electronic tools at the senior decision-making level. Lira sits in senior staff meetings so he can strategize ways to incorporate new media on a daily basis.