Like an internet paparazzo, the man who calls himself "Jerry
Politex" knows just about everything there is to know about Texas
Gov. George W. Bush.
His Bush Watch Web site gathers every article ever written about
the governor, from a 1967 engagement announcement to a trove of
investigative pieces into Mr. Bush's business dealings. And while he
doesn't make a penny for his effort, Politex gets referrals to his
Web site from high places, like The New York Times and the Internet
All of this, of course, could be very bad news for Governor Bush.
After all, if the affable Texas governor does decide to seek the
presidency, he will have a tireless foe determined to find - and
publish - his every flaw.
"What I'm interested in is finding a reader who might take the
information that I have and run with it," says Politex (who takes on
the pseudonym to protect his, unknown, day job.)
As for gathering stories, "right now I do it all by hand. That's
how I walk my beat."
To some, Politex might seem to be a harmless cyber-crank. But
with more than 40 percent of American adults - including most
journalists - using the Internet to gather information, Web sites
like his Bush Watch are already changing the tone and tempo of
coverage for the 2000 presidential campaign.
Their proliferation is raising new questions of accuracy and
accountability in newsrooms across the country and altering how
campaign officials disseminate information.
Journalists who grew accustomed to knowing news before their
audience did now find themselves scooped on the Web. And campaign
officials, who once dealt with a small pack of traditional
now find they must update their methods and embrace technology or
"The penetration of the Internet in the market is so high, I think
it's reaching a critical mass, and it's going to be a political
weapon in the next election campaign," says Rosental Alves, a
journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "It makes
available a volume of information that we have never seen before."
Ethics of what to use
In many ways, the 2000 election will offer the most critical test
yet of how media outlets deal with the plethora of information in
cyberspace - and the ethical questions that arise from it.
Today, every major campaign, Democratic and Republican, has set up
a Web site, complete with past speeches, future campaign stops, and
chat rooms where supporters can offer feedback. In fact, Republican
Steve Forbes made a bit of history by announcing his presidential
candidacy during an Internet press conference.
But the very nature of the Web is that it belongs to no
establishment, and for every official site, there are dozens that
exist to analyze - and criticize - the leading candidates.
In Nashua, N.H., radio talk show host Todd Feinburg has created a
site called Attitude@nh. …