Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Jokes and Poems: E-Mail Brings in More Politics

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Jokes and Poems: E-Mail Brings in More Politics

Article excerpt

Like many Americans, pediatrician Kenneth Rafal got caught up in the presidential election drama.

So, when he got an e-mail petition last month calling for an end to the Florida recount, he forwarded it to many of the 245 employees at the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based medical practice group he leads.

"A few people did express some concerns about me sending political stuff over our work e-mail. But I felt so strongly about this particular situation, that I felt it was worthwhile," Rafal said in a telephone interview. "Politics belong everywhere if you live in a democratic society."

Politics used to be a delicate topic around the water cooler. As Election 2000 showed, electronic mail has changed all that.

For the past several months, many office workers have lived in blizzard of e-mailed jokes, poems and dancing images of candidates and chads sent to them by friends, colleagues and, in some instances, by the boss himself.

Some employees welcomed the chance to talk about the real-world issues in the workplace, and hope it will continue. But not everyone's convinced the discourse is a good idea.

"It's fine to talk politics at lunch or on the way to the parking lot, but not at the office. It's robbing the boss of time and it's really distracting," said etiquette doyenne Letitia Baldrige. "It's also a good way to hound and persecute someone whose beliefs you don't share and that doesn't belong at work either."

Still, in an election that inspired everything from Web sites comparing the candidates with chimpanzees to bingo ballots and obscene parodies, the deluge and consequent discussion were hard to avoid -- even for those disinclined to discuss politics at work.

"In general, you tend to try not to touch on political issues in the office. There's a desire to avoid being decisive. But in this election, your opinion on the outcome was so dependent on how you voted, it was hard not to," said Caitlin Baron, a Boston consultant, who traded political e-mails with colleagues she knew shared her views but would never have sent out office-wide messages.

The discussion got so heated at the Austin-based Internet startup where Gary Young works that the office called a moratorium on political e-mail discussion. …

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