We had completely forgotten about “trackers” until we saw the article.
Shame on us.
Time for a teachable moment as we open the classroom doors to Politics 101.
By the way, the guy in the picture is not the guy in the article.
If you want to read the article, the link is at the end.
Ever wonder where some of that poorly shot video used in political ads comes from?
Political action groups frequently hire someone for a couple of months to follow a candidate day and night.
The idea is to tape him or her saying or doing something stupid.
The better (meaning stupider) it is, the more that clip is used.
Charles Djou fiddling with his phone and giggling while in a Council meeting came from 27-year-old Anthony Chang, the subject of the article.
That ran in a negative ad – a lot.
With YouTube, a candidate’s foot-in-mouth can be broadcast in a matter of moments. The worse it is the more people will see it. If it get’s big enough the national media might pick it up.
Chang was hired by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for $2,000 a month during the special election for Neil Abercrombie’s vacated seat. Not a lot of money for the long hours.
But this is not so much about him as it is what trackers do.
You have to be dedicated to be a tracker.
You got to be right behind the candidate day and night and anyone can tell you the schedule for someone running for major political office is brutal.
Early morning breakfasts, dozens of appearances and speeches throughout the day, ending with a rubber-chicken dinner meet-and-greet late at night.
Votes are collected one at a time.
You want the job, you pay the price.
Trackers aren’t supposed to hide what they do. If asked, you hand them your boss’s card and tell them he’ll answer any questions. In the article, Chang says he made it a point to introduce himself to the candidate he was assigned to follow. Sounds like a man who loves stirring the pot.
As you can imagine, Djou was not pleased, “I think what you do is kind of slimy. This is the reason why people don’t want to participate in politics.”
Trackers have rules they are supposed to follow.
The ones we’re known generally ignore them.
But since Chang says he followed them, here they generally are, such as they are:
Don’t go around blabbing who you are – but if asked, fess up.
Hang out as close to the press as you can.
No one wants to hassle people where the cameras are set up.
That’s a one-way ticket to the next newscast.
(As you can imagine, this doesn’t thrill the working reporters too much)
Don’t let them throw you out.
After all, it’s usually a public event and the tracker has a right to be there.
One thing to keep in mind is there’s a thin line between standing your ground and getting your butt kicked.
This is where the phrase “discretion is the better part of valor” kicks in.
Both the tracker and the media are there for the same thing: a usable sound bite.
The press is looking for great or outlandish.
Either will do.
The tracker wants outlandish only.
A career-making moment for a tracker is getting something that will sink the candidate when it hits the airwaves.
It really is the kind of job you have to be born to.
It’s a career field that has blossomed in the last election with the availability of small digital camcorders.
Think of paparazzi for politicians only.
Here’s the real downside: most often, a politician’s true character comes out when he strays away from his talking points.
If voters are being denied the right to hear a candidate speak out of fear the candidate might make a gaffe recorded and used by the other side, then what are the elections for anyway?
Choosing between a candidate whose opinions you disagree with and one whose opinions you don’t know because they’ve evaded public events is no choice at all.
It sets a dangerous precedent for our electoral system to have candidates who believe they can win by saying nothing.
But one thing’s for sure: YouTube isn’t going anywhere.
To some, a tracker is a slime-bag – to others, a hero.
Having worked both sides of the street, we can tell you they actually don’t bring in as much as some supporter of the candidate at the event with his or her camera phone.
Auntie gets access no tracker will get.
She covers it and posts it to YouTube with no consideration of whether the content hurts or helps her chosen one.
None of this should be seen as criticism of Mr. Chang.
He seems a nice enough guy who likes his job.
How many of us can say that?
Click to read the Kaleo article.