Reason Magazine’s Jesse Walker has posted some interesting thoughts about the ways that the interplay between old and new media has impacted recent events in the Presidential campaign – specifically the release and subsequent debunking of the memos describing Bush’s National Guard service. He writes:
“When CBS aired those dubious memos last Wednesday, it set off a reaction that began in cyberspace but by the end of Thursday had gotten all the way to Nightline. Bloggers and Freepers were doing fresh reporting and fresh analysis of the story. So were ABC, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post. The professional media drew on the bloggers for ideas; the bloggers in turn linked to the professionals’ reports. The old media and the new media weren’t at loggerheads with each other–or, to the extent that they were, they were also at loggerheads with themselves. They complemented each other. They were part of the same ecosystem.”
A similar symbiosis has surrounded the various Truth campaigns (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Texans for Truth). In each case, an independent but partisan group has raised money to produce ads which are aired in a small but select number of markets. The goal is to generate news coverage which gets the charges contained in the commercial broader visibility. The news coverage in turn draws traffic to their websites and generates discussion in the blogs. The blog discussion in turn shapes coverage of the issue, forcing more media attention. Even as the charges are being debunked, the originating group is raising money to launch a second round of commercials and starting the whole process all over. The result has been not only one of the roughest campaigns in recent memory but also one where the partisans are shaping the messages as much as the leaders.
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