A lively discussion at RTNDA on the internet and the election, moderated by Hardball host Chris Matthews, picked apart new media’s and the citizen journalist’s role in deciding who will be the next president. Titled “Upload, Download, and Overload: 2008 Election Media Strategy”, the session addressed the issue of responsibility in how bloggers choose to support or eviscerate candidates, and how social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube sway voters.
Aftaer the standing room-only ballroom was treated to YouTube videos of candidates committing humiliating gaffes (including Hillary Clinton’s tone-deaf take on the national anthem), Steve Capus, head of NBC News, said he likes the fact that “there’s no place to hide” in a world where so much of the public has a camera phone or blog. “Seeing and hearing [the candidates] in their worlds – I’m all for it,” he said. “But what’s [the posters'] motivation?”
Jeff Jarvis, who runs the influential buzzmachine.com blog, credited user-generated video with enabling the public to bypass traditional media. “It changes the equation radically,” he said. “They can go around you, Chris Matthews.”
The panelists, who also included Jordan Hoffner of YouTube, blogger Michael Turk and Angie Kucharski WBZ Boston, also attempted to weigh a peer’s input versus traditional media’s. Joe Trippi, who spearheaded Howard Dean’s famed online campaign in 2004, felt peers held greater sway. “If five friends tell me a new movie sucks, I’m not going to see it, no matter how much the movie studio spends to tell me it’s the greatest movie I’ll ever see,” he said.
The debate grew heated when talk radio host Hugh Hewitt ripped the media for reporting bogus information from Hurricane Katrina, such reports of shots fired at the convention center in New Orleans and corpses stored in freezers. Capus vehemently took issue, saying such reports were a tiny minority. “[Katrina] was one of journalism’s finest hours,” he said, to loud applause.
Hewitt again divided the audience after the floor was opened up for questions. With all the blog talk going on, one attendee wondered sarcastically if he’d mistakenly turned up at the National Association of Bloggers conference. Hewitt countered that the blogosphere would soon outgrow the broadcast world. “Next year, [blogger conference] BlogWorld will be bigger than NAB,” he said, eliciting more than a few grumbles.