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Eye On Illinois: A look at GOP House Caucus’ audio outreach

If using the term “Have All Voted Who Wish” as a podcast title is a bit confusing, consider that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle adopted the moniker for their audio presentations.

Last Wednesday I reviewed a new podcast from state Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, and in so doing discovered the House Republican Caucus has been using the same term for its series of 77 SoundCloud posts dating back four years (soundcloud.com/ilhousegop).

The name comes from House proceedings – it’s what the speaker intones just to make sure no member misses their chance – so while it may seem odd to outsiders, it aptly conveys the notion a listener (to either show) will get inside information.

After discussing the left’s show last week, it seems only fair to look at the right’s today. Specifically I listened to the seven most recent interviews, which all were visits with freshman members: state Reps. Martin McLaughlin, Adam Niemerg, Paul Jacobs, Jackie Haas, Amy Elik, David Friess, Chris Bos and Seth Lewis.

Throughout the year, and especially when the General Assembly is in session, the show focuses more on specific legislation or aspects of state management. As a product of the caucus it is, like Zalewski’s show, presented with partisan flair. But there’s an important distinction between campaign rhetoric, which often falls on deaf ears, and what can be possible in this medium: a genuine attempt to remind voters these elected officials are regular humans who have a particular approach to solving problems.

Whether a listener agrees with those strategies isn’t exactly the concern of the interviewer or subject. But even for avowed Democrats, there is benefit in understanding how political opponents perceive their roles and responsibilities. The GOP interviews are more useful when the subjects analyze policy and procedure and more grating when they fall back on social media buzzwords and caricatures.

My biggest personal beef is the show is available only on SoundCloud, where on the desktop version there is no option to change playback speed. Zalewski’s show is available on Spotify but not Apple Podcasts – both sides could do more to increase accessibility to content.

Aside from that, it’s worth noting the GOP interviews are constructed to be useful past their posting date. Perhaps not evergreen, but they certainly are good avenues for constituents to get to know their elected officials. It can be difficult in a 118-seat chamber for voices of individual members to break through, and that’s especially true of people new to the job.

Podcasts have no limits. Longer-form chats might allow listeners to know representatives beyond their predictable political positions. The result would obviously be no less partisan, but removing the polish can do wonders for a politician’s accessibility.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.