Pressing Issues: Can Old Media Win in 2.0008 Campaign?

Article excerpt

The nomination of an African-American for president by a major party is not the only historic aspect of the 2008 election campaign in the United States. This is also the first campaign strongly shaped -- even, at times, dominated -- by the new media, from viral videos and blog reports that "go mainstream" to profoundly successful online fundraising.

James Poniewozik, the Time magazine columnist, observed in late June that the old media are rapidly losing their "authority" and influence with the mass market. "It's too simple to say that the new media are killing off the old media," he declared, while highlighting a pair of influential scoops at The Huffington Post by a hitherto unknown "citizen journalist" named Mayhill Fowler. "What's happening instead is a kind of melding of roles. Old and new media are still symbiotic, but it's getting hard to tell who's the rhino and who's the tickbird."

Simply put: The rules of the game have been changed forever -- by technology. "It's politics at the speed of Internet," says Dan Carol, a strategist for Obama who got his start on Bill Clinton's 1992 team. This has brought us stirring new ways to tune in and participate, along with diversions ranging from "Obama Girl" to Mitt Romney's "Mitthead Blogroll." And it likely was the first primary campaign where a question at a presidential debate was put forward by a melting snowman. This came during one of the You Tube debates (the issue, of course, was global warming).

This year's campaign, in fact, has been dubbed the "YouTube Election" or "The Facebook Election." But that may be too reductive. James Rainey, media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, declared recently that there is a "new-media revolution that is remaking presidential campaigns. Online videos can dominate the evening TV news. Or an unpublished novelist with absolutely no journalism training can alter the national debate" -- a reference to Mayhill Fowler.

A Pew survey released in mid-June revealed that 46% of all Americans have used the Web or e-mail to "get news about the campaign, share their views, and mobilize others." Almost 20% go online every week to do something related to the campaign. This is three times the 2004 rate -- and the hottest part of the campaign is yet to come. …