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Hill Climbers: New Media Man

When commentators talk about the term “new media,— specifics are not always easy to come by. Typically, social networking sites, video sharing and blogging are all highlighted for revolutionizing the way we communicate. For Matt Lira, who works in the office of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a media change is nowhere more prominent than in politics.

[IMGCAP(1)]In January, Lira was appointed director of new media, a first position of its kind in the Minority Whip’s office. He now works on integrating existing and emerging technologies for Cantor’s policy and communication.

“It’s really a two-way street,— Lira said. “We are not only using new technology to get our message out, but we are using it to create a conversation on policy with the whole country. In that way, my role is different from a traditional media staffer in that I am not just focused on the output but also the input.—

Lira highlighted Cantor’s relatively young age (46) as providing an advantage in understanding new media. “It’s not that older Members lack an understanding on the importance of emerging technologies,— he said. “But I do think that the Congressman has a special relationship with technology because of his age. He really believes in the integration of media.—

This is not Lira’s first experience in politics. Immediately before working in the Whip’s office, Lira was a media staffer for the McCain/Palin campaign, a position he held from June 2008 up until the election. In joining the McCain/Palin campaign, Lira left Cantor’s personal office, where he was deputy communications director from November 2006 until June 2008.

“I really loved that job, so it was a no-brainer to rejoin the Congressman after the 2008 election,— he said.

[IMGCAP(2)]Before his first job with Cantor, Lira worked as a media staffer for the Republican National Committee from January 2006 to November 2006. This job was preceded by nearly a yearlong stint with the House Republican Conference, where he also served in a media capacity. Lira describes that position as involving “general lower-level staff work and sending out blast e-mails.—

Originally hailing from Denver, Lira said it was never his intention to pursue politics as a career. Graduating from the University of Denver in 2004 with a degree in international relations, Lira first entered the political world as a field organizer for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in 2004.

“I was never active in national politics until then,— he said. “Like so many other people in this city, after the election I decided to head toward Washington but only for a couple years. That was five years ago.—

Even though Lira was not an active participant in politics until after college, he was to some extent born into it. Now 27, Lira was actually delivered (yes, that kind of delivered) by a physician who is now a sitting Member of Congress, although he hesitates to name the Member.

Outside of work on the Hill, Lira said he follows “any sporting event of any type that is in a playoff game.— Right now, that includes rooting for Team Astana in the Tour de France. Also a fan of outdoor sports, which are well-suited for Colorado, Lira said that if he were not on the Hill, he would be “skiing or rafting somewhere.—

Looking at his future in a more serious light, however, Lira does not rule out a return to Colorado someday. Fortunately for him, he would be a returning to a state that is really wired. “Colorado is way ahead of the curve in technology,— he said.

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