Oct 26, 2007
New online magazine gives inside look at Lansing
The conventional wisdom in Lansing is if you really want to know what's going on under the Capital dome you ask a lobbyist, but now a new online magazine called the "Dome" will shed some light on the lobbyists themselves, and on the other people who shape policy in Lansing.
The magazine has been online less than two weeks, and it aims to cover “the people, issues and events shaping Michigan politics and policy.”
“We’re not trying to get into the daily stuff of who called who what name,” said Publisher Tom Scott said. “We want to look at the bigger picture.
“Newspapers don’t do features any more, and we want to fill that niche,” he said.
Scott is a story himself. He was Gov. James Blanchard’s deputy press secretary in his first term and served as press secretary during Blanchard’s second term. He is currently the vice-president of public affairs and communications for the Michigan Retailers Association, and the magazine is a part-time labor of love for him. He published the traditional monthly, glossy magazine “The Michigan Lobbyist” from 2003 to 2006, but he said too many people thought it was simply a trade magazine just for lobbyists.
“It concentrated on the lobbyist corps, but it was not a trade magazine,” Scott said. “It didn’t pass the doctor’s office test.
“It was well-received, but a lot of people simply did not understand it.”
When Scott decided to bring the magazine back he began lining up advertisers for a traditional magazine, but he also wanted to make the magazine much broader. Features on the people who effect and shape policy will be a major focus of the magazine, and that will include lobbyists, as well as lawmakers, academics and even the policy people who work for the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau (LSB) and even the party caucuses.
“I wanted to bring it back with a new name and a broader base,” Scott said. “A funny thing happened on the way to publication: I fell into the 21st Century.
“There are still costs associated with publishing online, but not nearly as much as publishing a traditional magazine,” he said.
The magazine will carry 2-3 features on policy makers, opinion columns by well-know policy makers, book reviews on Michigan policy, news briefs, policy events and even an advice column by former Michigan First Lady Paula Blanchard and her partner Patty McCarthy. Scott said although the magazine is structured as a traditional monthly magazine, some content will change daily, weekly and monthly. It is entirely advertiser driven, meaning that the content is free, and the articles will be written by freelance writers.
“I’m a traditional journalist; I still tend to think in terms of a monthly magazine,” Scott said. “It’s a work in progress. There will be some things that may go away, some will stay and some new things will be added.”
Along with Scott’s discovery of the 21st Century and high-tech news sources, he has added some multi-media features. The current issue features video of a lively panel discussion on the 1983 recalls sponsored by the Michigan Political History Society recorded in 2004 on the eve of the California recall. Scott said he initially planned to publish a transcript of the discussion, but he realized how many pages it would take, coupled with advice from friends, he decided to post the entire video.
“With all the stuff about recalls I remembered there was an excellent program put on by the Michigan Political History Society,” he said. “It really was an excellent panel discussion.”
The inaugural issue features a cover story about lobbyist Dennis Muchmore, who, ironically, also graced the cover of the premiere issue of Michigan Lobbyist magazine back in the Spring of 2003. Scott said although it’s not a major focus of the magazine, the Dome will put a human face on lobbyists. Outside of Lansing lobbyists often have a bad image and reputation, but inside Lansing many are respected professionals.
“If you really look at it, everyone has a lobbyist,” Scott said. “If you are a member of a professional organization you have a lobbyist, if you are a member of an advocacy group you have a lobbyist and if you are a member of a charitable organization you have a lobbyist.
“These are very interesting people,” he said. “Yes, they are lobbyists, but they are intelligent, interesting people with various backgrounds, hobbies and families.”