Course Content

Tammy Duckworth Social Media Campaign

Tammy Duckworth is currently representing Illinois’ 8th congressional district. She has served in this position since 2013 and before serving in the House of Representatives, Duckworth was the Illinois’ Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth is currently running as the democratic nominee for an Illinois senate seat. She is running against republican Mark Kirk in the 2016 election.


To understand Tammy Duckworth’s campaign, you must understand her background. Duckworth was the first Asian-American to represent Illinois in Congress and the first ever member of Congress born in Thailand. She was deployed to serve in the Iraq war in 2004 and lost both of her legs and partial use of one of her arms when the Blackhawk helicopter that she was piloting was shot down. Duckworth is using her personal experience as a large part of her platform and is running primarily on reducing gun violence, veteran affairs and gender equality.


Duckworth is very active on social media and interacts with voters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She uses each platform slightly different but her message is similar throughout all platforms. As recent studies on the importance of social media in political campaigns have shown, it is important for candidates to be authentic in social media campaigns. Duckworth uses social media not only as a platform to directly address her views on political issues but also as a place to promote her personal values. Although Duckworth does post about issues and shares positive endorsements, the majority of her social media is focused on her personal accomplishments. Duckworth posts pictures with updates of her daughter, regularly shares inspiring posts about her war injuries and the recovery that came with it and most recently, promoted the fact that she competed in the Chicago marathon.


Duckworth uses similar messages on all social media but all are tailored slightly differently based on the website. Duckworth primarily uses Facebook and has over 88 thousand likes on her political page. Duckworth uses lots of photos in her Facebook posts and usually text to relate the post back to an issue or idea that could better resonate with voters. Duckworth uses some of the same pictures and ideas on Twitter but, due to the character limit, does not use such long winded explanations. What Duckworth does on Twitter differently than she does on Facebook is provide live updates. She does so frequently during the presidential debates where Duckworth frequently points out and denounces often stereotypical or sexist comments that Donald Trump makes during the debates. Duckworth also uses Instagram but she does so less frequently than the other two social media sites. Duckworth shares almost exclusively lifestyle photos on her Instagram. She does not address any issue directly and instead provides personal insights into her life and shares photos of her meeting with different groups of voters.


Duckworth clearly is strategic and seems successful at building her campaign through social media. She promotes her individuality and story very clearly throughout her social media channels to build a rapport with voters. Two interesting strategies that stuck out in her social media were how she responded to attack ads by Mark Kirk and how she, in turn, attacked Kirk for some of his tweets. Throughout the campaign, Kirk has used television ads to call Duckworth’s efforts working for the Illinois’ Department of Veteran Affairs “shameful”. Duckworth has responded with television ads of her own but also responded via social media. On her Facebook page, Duckworth actually posted one of her response ads her page and called his criticism of Duckworth’s service to veterans “nothing short of shameful”. Here Duckworth was able to leverage the immediacy of social media to get her message out to voters that she believes what Kirk said in his ads is untrue and offensive.


Duckworth also has used some of the things that Kirk has posted on Twitter against him. She used a unique strategy by building a page on Ikedo to garner campaign donations when Kirk tweets. The page says, “Republican Mark Kirk habitually makes offensive comments about African-Americans, women, immigrants, and even President Obama. Show him how unacceptable his rhetoric is by making a contribution to elect Tammy for every Kirk outburst.” The bottom of the page has a live feed of what Kirk tweets and encourages people to donate to Duckworth’s campaign for each tweet that he makes. The website has only collected $140 for Duckworth’s campaign, so the medium has proved to be somewhat ineffective, but the idea itself is intriguing. By attacking the morality and views that Kirk shares on social media, Duckworth can further leverage herself in the race and by using Ikedo, can collect campaign funds in the process.

The State of the Media

Q & A with Ralph Braseth


Ralph Braseth is a journalism professor and the Student Media Manager at Loyola. Braseth has been involved with television since he graduated from college and has served as a local and national television reporter in Columbia, Missouri, Tri-Cities, Washington and Jackson, Mississippi. Before coming to Loyola, Braseth spent 20 years as a journalism professor and running the student TV station at the University of Mississippi.

How have you seen the news industry changing? 

The news business. Newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations. They have basically imploded. Their business model, if not decanting has been destroyed, thanks to Google. It’s thanks to their unwillingness to think that they don’t have to change and so now students have the ability. They [students] are already very sophisticated and their content isn’t necessarily more sophisticated but they know how to distribute it like, it’s just just incredible. It’s hard for me to imagine. When I watch some of my students or my son for that example. If he feels that he has some good content, it goes out on six or seven different social media platforms and his reach is probably five hundred people and that’s a lot. That’s a lot of an audience and you have a great advantage. Media and journalism, we are gonna figure it out. In terms of monetizing it again and it will be key for people to understand the business and it will be key for people to understand how to distribute it.

What specific structural changes do you feel are effective?

In 2005, I was running the student media center at Ole Miss and a person I knew told me that I needed to find out about what was coming down the pike. So I went to MIT for half a summer and I learned from MIT about and they are content neutral. They went all around the country and talked to every single industry and said this is what’s coming, basically the internet, to all of us and they didn’t care what you did with it. I mean, newspapers, grocery stores, whatever but you need to prepare because it’s gonna change us fundamentally and I was really affected by that and I came back and what I did when I came back was put them all in one room. They were all in different buildings. People were furious with me. There is still faculty that resent me because they thought I was too strong handed and that I moved too quick and that I did it all wrong and in hindsight, I didn’t do it all right but I was on to the right things because that’s what I learned from the people at MIT was that we weren’t gonna be able to be in those silos anymore.

Can you compare and contrast the media when you started reporting and how digital media has changed the scope of reporting.

It has democratized reporting. Anyone can be a reporter. It doesn’t necessarily mean they work for a TV station, or radio or any of those things but as an individual, the power of the press used to belong to the people who owned the press. Now we all own the press and if I have a really strong opinion about something, if I work hard enough, I can write an influential blog that catches people’s attention. That can become influential. Where people might view me as an expert and what it’s allowed, there are so many more voices than there ever used to be and that’s a really good thing. We always need more voices. One of the problems for audiences is there are too many voices and which ones are worth listening to? And for some people that’s not hard to discern and for other people, we can go to a site and be convinced that that’s what the truth is. We can also go to, and this frequently happens, websites, established ones, commercial ones or ones that aren’t like that and they reflect the way we feel about a certain topic.

What would you say are the fundamental changes that journalists need to make as digital media progresses?

I think of more fundamental changes, is everybody’s a competitor. I’m not a special guy that I happen to work at a radio or a TV station and that’s a silo and I’m not that special anymore. I see some stories created by some people that aren’t even in high school that are far better than the ones that are on Chicago television and it’s wonderful but it’s gotta be a little disconcerting for the people that want to do it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Downfall of Digg

Photo Credit: Bernard Goldbach

Digg was founded in 2004 and quickly rose to become one of the first popular social media websites. By 2006, Digg had over 180,000 users who created six million pages of content per day.

The original concept of Digg was simple. Digg was a news aggregation website that published content created by registered users. It was the website’s community, rather than affiliated journalists, who would write the news.

Users also had the ability to either “digg” any posts on the website that they liked or “bury” the posts that they didn’t. The most popular content was featured on the home page of the site. The idea was that the community, rather than news editors, would be the ones deciding which stories were important.

During its early days, Digg was heralded as a possible catalyst to change the news media forever.

Digg’s founder, Kevin Rose, gained popularity as quickly as his website. His relative fame was catapaulted in 2006 when his picture landed on the cover of Businessweek titled, “How this Kid Made $60 million in 18 Months”.

Kevin Rose at a meeting in 2009. Photo Credit: Kent Goldman

Rose openly admitted that Digg was not a totally original idea. He married concepts inspired from Slashdot, Myspace and and made the site as user friendly and interactive as possible. His vision was to create a truly democratic news aggregator.

Digg’s popularity was noted by several major tech companies. Digg was offered a few lucrative sales opportunities, none of which went through. Most notably was in 2008 when Google attempted to purchase Digg for an estimated $200 million. Soon after the offer from Google, Digg experienced a sharp decline in traffic.

Digg gets Buried

By 2012, Digg sold to Betaworks for $500,000. The website is still operational today but does not have the following that it once boasted.

Digg’s demise came down to two basic factors:

  • Major design flaws
  • A change in the website’s philosophy

The failures were brought forth by a relaunch in 2010. Digg completely redesigned the site in order to try and better compete with Twitter and Facebook.

Instead of standing out from other social media sites, it copied many of their popular features. Loyal Digg users felt that this caused the site to lose its original purpose.

The redesign had major technological issues and many users could not even access the site when the relaunch first occurred.

If that was not enough to turn users away, the redesign offered a new algorithm that clearly preferred some users over others. It was noted that 100 Digg users controlled a majority of the content featured on the homepage.

Such a small group of powerful publishers seemed more like traditional media than a truly democratic news source. Dedicated users were leaving Digg as quickly as they came.

Lessons Learned

Since Digg has fallen off the radar, Reddit has taken over as the dominant social news aggregator.

Today Reddit has over 234 Million users.

Reddit has succeeded because they have stuck to their roots and featured totally user created content. Features like the subreddit allows Reddit users to create their own discussion boards for any topic imaginable.

Digg’s failure touches on a very important idea that media creators should keep in mind. While Digg’s website updates took power away from users, Reddit has continually kept the power within the community.

Just like the principals that Digg was founded on, people of the digital age value the ability to be heard. Involving more community interaction into traditional media websites could stimulate more user interaction.

The Atlantic Sponsored Content

When the nation’s top monthly magazine,  that also happens to have a storied 159 year old tradition, features a strange post about the growth of scientology, people begin to ask questions.

The Atlantic is known for their intricate reporting and quality writing. It flaunts the fact that some of its first writers included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Longfellow. Yet, constraints of the modern age led the magazine to make a huge mistake.

In January of 2013, the Atlantic featured an article on their website about the successes of the church of Scientology. The problem was that the article was not actually an article at all. It was sponsored content; not written by any of the writers on staff at The Atlantic but instead by members of the church of Scientology themselves.

The post upset many readers and was taken down soon after it was published. A PDF of that post can be seen here.

Including such posts, known as sponsored content, is becoming common practice for publications to get advertising money. In 2015 it was estimated that 40 percent of online publishers garnered at least a quarter of their advertising revenue from sponsored content.

The American Press Institute says that sponsored content does these two things:

  • It is generally understood to be content that takes the same form and qualities of a publisher’s original content.
  • It usually serves useful or entertaining information as a way of favorably influencing the perception of the sponsor brand.

With an overload of information on the internet, sponsored content allows advertisers to reach consumers in a seemingly more natural and interesting way. It gives consumers an opportunity to interact with the brand in a way that they never had before.

The Problem

Sponsored content poses problems for publishers as it is often seen to blur the lines of editorial content and advertising. In fact, one study showed that 61 percent of adults believed that sponsored content harmed the credibility of a news organization.

In the specific case of The Atlantic, its readership was so upset about the post because they felt deceived. The post was labeled as sponsored content but it was only done so with a very small picture at the top of the article. Without a clear label, it seemed like The Atlantic had published the strange article themselves.

The second issue had to do with moderating comments. The Atlantic allowed the Church of Scientology to moderate the comments from their post. The Church of Scientology decided to deleted most of the critical comments and only left in the few that aligned with the views of the post itself.

The Circumstance

Before 2010, The Atlantic did not make a profit for over a decade. Like many traditional publications, The Atlantic struggled to find ways to make profit in the era of a rapidly changing digital world.

Not only did the internet provide more competition for publications but people became much more unlikely to pay for news that they consume. One study shows that only 11 percent of Americans pay for the digital news they consume. This shift causes many newsrooms to miss out on a significant portion of revenue.

Their solution? Well a big part of it is sponsored content.

The Atlantic is estimated to make 75 percent of their advertising revenue from sponsored content. Despite the problems, sponsored content is becoming a vital part of keeping publications, like The Atlantic, alive.

The Solution

After receiving backlash, The Atlantic immediately took down the Scientology sponsored content post and issued an apology.

As part of the apology, they created a comprehensive report with guidelines when publishing native advertising.

The guidelines include:

  • A two-step internal review to review the content from advertisers and assure it matched with The Atlantic and their publication values.
  • A more prominent “Sponsored Content” label.
  • The Atlantic would not allow advertisers to moderate comments and the only way a comment would be deleted would be if it contained spam, obscenity or hate speech.

Since this instance, The Atlantic has been cited for having much more transparent native advertising practices.

Native Advertising is not necessarily bad for consumers. If it allows for publishers to keep quality content available on the internet for free, it serves a serves a great purpose.

The problem comes when advertising begins to seem like editorial content. After the Scientology incident, The Atlantic has done a must better job of being clear of what is an advertisement and what is content created and endorsed by their publication.

When it comes down to it, all sponsored content needs to be clearly labeled as such to assure that it does not deceive the reader.