The Intersection of Voice and Policy: How Collaborative Writing in a Congressional Office Generates a Public Voice




Small, Malisah

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This paper examines the role congressional staffers play in orchestrating the voice of the Member of Congress through the crafting of press releases, letters, speeches, and other texts on his behalf. The author conducted an ethnographic study of the congressional office where she has worked for four years, examining how the staff writing team works collaboratively to generate the Congressman‟s public voice. The study explores the sources of authority in the writing process, particularly in a culture where writing on behalf of the Congressman has the power to determine and communicate public policy. It examines how staff writers orient first to the Congressman himself, then to various audiences and to each other. It argues that the writing process is significantly impacted by the power structures in the office, but that it also plays an important role in shaping power relationships among writers and between the Congressman and his staff. Finally, this study argues that the congressional voice has a significant impact on crafting and implementing public policy and that staffers, as orchestrators of this voice, have authority to shape policy decisions.



Voice, Collaborative Writing, Ghostwriting, Public Policy, Congressional Staff