National Press Club

Panel Discusses New Media's Role in Elections

September 17, 2008

Changes in new media are happening so quickly that Facebook may already be passé as a news medium in this presidential campaign, experts on changing news technology told a National Press Club forum Monday.

“I think we are in the post-Facebook phase,” said Ana Marie Cox, who founded the influential political blog, “Wonkette,” and now is the Washington editor of “The medium that best expresses the moment we are in politically is not Facebook, but Twitter.”

Cox was speaking at an NPC Centennial Forum on “Blogging, the Campaign, and the Future of Journalism.” Co-sponsored by West Virginia University, the forum was connected by satellite to a university auditorium at Morgantown, W.Va., where students could watch and ask questions.

Blogs and social networking Internet sites had a big impact on the primary campaigns, the panel agreed.

The primaries, especially on the Democratic side, were driven by online media and blogs, which have a great deal of influence in liberal politics, said Tom Rosentiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“The use of YouTube was important to Obama in particular,” he said.

But in the general election, the panelists said, the new media may be less influential, as candidates compete for the attention of voters who are not activists and who may not be as technologically tuned in.

While bloggers may contribute to circulating rumors to a larger audience, the medium is self-correcting, said Michael Tomasky, editor of Blog readers are quick to correct false information, especially on blogs that have a lot of traffic.

“There is some wisdom of crowds,” he said. “Readers pick blogs that are good, and they rise to the top.”

But Internet technology that allows editors to count readers for every story and that pushes stories to the top of Google searches is changing journalism, the panelists said.

“The Internet is driving journalism toward a more give-the-audience-what-they-want model,” said Ross Douthat, a senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly who blogs for
For the West Virginia University students watching the forum, Rosenstiel offered this encouragement: “Students today are going to invent the next journalism.”

Here's some coverge of the event by a West Virginia TV station:

Here's a video clip of the event:

The NPC Centennial Forums program is sponsored by Aviva USA, which is funding the production and distribution of 12,000 DVD copies of "The National Press Club: A Century of Headlines" documentary and supplemental education materials.