October 20, 2008

Page 1 of the Sept. 2, 2008, edition of Tribp.m. (Courtesy Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Old School Meets New Media in 2008 Presidential Campaign

Traditional media is taking a back seat to new media in this presidential election season. Campaign news is delivered almost as it happens to Web sites via online reporters, bloggers, text and Twitter messages, and YouTube videos.

News from the campaign trail goes "viral," spreading quickly via the Web, which can be both good and bad for the candidates.

Mayhill Fowler, whose "citizen-powered," "Off the Bus" blog on "The Huffington Post" Web site, broke two stories that negatively affected two campaigns.

She captured Democratic nominee Barack Obama on tape saying that some "bitter" working-class voters "cling to guns or religion." She also taped Bill Clinton crudely insulting a reporter, sparking a backlash against Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

But candidates also use the Web to get their messages out to the public unfiltered by the media.

Nearly all of the candidates used Web sites and social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube to talk directly to voters. In a presidential campaign first, Obama’s campaign sent out a 26-word text message announcing Sen. Joe Biden as the Democratic vice presidential pick.

Digital campaign methods cover more miles, reach more people and can have a more immediate impact than any national convention or TV news report ever could. The downside: The unfiltered approach bypasses the rigorous analysis and fact checking performed by traditional news outlets.

"Old school" news outlets are adopting new media approaches. CBS News anchor Katie Couric has a YouTube channel to post videos of her campaign coverage in hopes of luring younger viewers. More than 6 million people watched Couric’s much-discussed interviews with vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin via YouTube.

Other videos on YouTube had a big impact, including Obama’s former pastor making controversial comments on race and politics.

Sometimes the blogosphere pushes news into the mainstream. Internet rumors forced the McCain campaign to announce that the teenage daughter of Gov. Palin was pregnant, propelling the story onto front pages and broadcast news.

"We’re in a very different place than we were in 2004," said Ariana Huffington, editor in-chief of "The Huffington Post." "No longer is it bloggers vs. old media; it’s much more of a convergence."

A new exhibit on the digital campaign of 2008 can be found in the Newseum’s Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery.

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