Guidelines for Bleeding Heartland guest authors advocating for candidates in Democratic primaries

This morning I wrote about a state legislative race where two Democrats are seeking the nomination.

This afternoon I received a robocall from Pat Murphy’s campaign in Iowa’s first Congressional district, directing me to the GOP Monica website to “get the facts” about rival candidate Monica Vernon’s Republican past.

Earlier this week, I wrote two posts about the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, which is getting much more attention in Iowa and nationally now that Patty Judge has entered the race.

Meanwhile, supporters of U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen posted two guest pieces here in two days on behalf of their favored candidate.

All of which reminded me that it’s time to post guidelines for writers advocating for Democratic candidates at Bleeding Heartland. Unfortunately, competitive elections can bring out bad behavior on political blogs.

Bleeding Heartland welcomes posts by guest authors, including those urging readers to support a certain candidate in a Democratic primary. Once writers hit the “publish” button, their pieces are “pending” until I approve them, to block spammers. But I move all non-spam pieces to the website and promote most submissions to the front page. My advice for anyone wanting to write a candidate advocacy post:

DO:

• Explain why you are supporting your candidate in the style and manner of your choosing. Bleeding Heartland has no set format for posts. Before the Iowa caucuses, guest authors made the case for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O’Malley in quite different ways. Check out work by laurenwhitehead, thefutureisnow, aaroncampil, Casey Erixon, Shawn, Robert Latta, Hope4theFuture, or Tracy Hatfield for inspiration. There is no minimum or maximum word length, though I ask authors to provide more than a sentence or two and a link to someone else’s article.

• Feel free to criticize Democratic candidates. I wasn’t a cheerleader in high school, and I’m not interested in being one now. Although Bleeding Heartland generally supports Democrats, this blog has a long history of calling out Democratic candidates or elected officials when warranted. I ask writers arguing against someone to keep the focus on policy (red flags in the politician’s record, a stand the candidate took on an issue important to you) or politics (a campaign strategy you view as flawed, reasons why this candidate is unelectable).

• Write about candidate events, debates, or forums. First-person accounts from the campaign trail are usually fun to read.

• Describe advertising, direct mail, or robocalls you have seen or heard in your district urging voters to support or oppose any candidate. I like to know about message-testing polls or push-polls in the field, so if you receive one of those, do not hang up the phone. Take detailed notes if possible, and write up what you heard.

DON’T:

• Conceal conflicts of interest. Democratic candidates or their employees are welcome to post here. In order to avoid problems that have cropped up at other political blogs (such as Iowa’s leading Republican website), I ask paid campaign staffers or consultants to disclose that fact if they write about the campaign they’re working on. However, a person employed by a campaign can post anonymously here about topics not related to that candidate’s race.

• Violate copyright laws. A news report or post at another blog can be the basis for a guest piece, but do not enclose lengthy excerpts or the entire text of copyrighted materials. Legal “fair use” involves posting a link to the original article and an excerpt of a few paragraphs. I will not publish material that crosses the line.

• Engage in personal, ad hominem attacks. Colorful language is fine–I am passionate about some political topics too–but if your post consists of little more than name-calling, I won’t move it to this site.

• Abuse the ability to post anonymously. Bleeding Heartland commenters and guest authors may write under any screen name that is not already in use here. No one is required to reveal real names or any personal information. “Outing” users who choose to post anonymously will get you banned from this site. At the same time, I ask Bleeding Heartland users not to make false statements about themselves. You’re free to never mention your age, gender or location, but if you describe yourself as a 40-something, Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights, you should be a 40-something Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights.

• Be a “sock puppet.” Stick to one username at Bleeding Heartland. Creating multiple accounts and using them to make it look like others support your position or your favored candidate is not acceptable.

• Use this website as a place to dump your candidate’s press releases. I publish a lot of press releases here, but I never write a piece consisting solely of a press release. It’s fine to use all or part of a statement from a candidate as a way to illustrate reasons you support that Democrat for a particular race, but add some analysis or additional commentary. This is the kind of post I am hoping to discourage, because going down that road would clutter up the site.

Thanks in advance for keeping these rules in mind, so we can have a vigorous and clean debate between now and June 7 over voters’ options for the U.S. Senate race, the first or third Congressional districts, or any state legislative or county race with a competitive Democratic primary.

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