DMI Blog

Dan Morris

Why We Need Progressive Publicists

So it’s official: I’m the new communications director at DMI. What drew me here was the chance to stay connected to the great tradition of progressive publicity at a time when we need more policy-minded media operatives outside the campaign circuit working the phones, blasting out emails, commenting on blogs, writing op-eds, and crafting smart pitches. The original progressive publicists in the nineteenth century, like those of today, were reporters, reformers, and everyday Americans who provoked a national dialogue about the middle class. Technology may have changed how news is gathered and disseminated, but this tradition lives on because economic and social conditions still need to be improved (that’s why some of us who do communications call ourselves progressives first, publicists second).

Labor leader Ira Steward described the middle class in 1873 in these all-too-contemporary terms:

“In the faces of thousands of well-dressed, intelligent people, and well-appearing people, may be seen the unmistakable signs of their incessant anxiety… The poverty of the great middle classes consists in the fact that they have only barely enough to cover up their poverty, and that they are within a very few days of want, if through sickness, or other misfortunes, employment suddenly stops… No one can describe the secret feeling of insecurity that constantly prevails among them concerning their living, and how it will be with them in the future… They must work constantly, and with an angry sense of the limited opportunities for a career at their command.”

Fortunately, there are bloggers and journalists, including some in the mainstream, reporting on that feeling of insecurity today so that it’s not a shameful secret, but a story that reflects how a vast majority of people live, and why they aspire to a better life defined not simply by an income bracket but rather by a stable job, the ability to balance work and family, the chance to own a home, and equality of opportunity in education and other areas that will strengthen the next generation, making it better off than the last. In many ways, this is still a developing story, with new angles and aspects emerging daily. DMI will continue building diverse media relationships to ensure that this story does not fade from view.

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Posted at 3:02 PM, Sep 08, 2008 in Drum Major Institute
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