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Politicians wary of loss of control to "new media?"
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Very interesting article by Vaughn Ververs at CBS's Public Eye:
Some of the more optimistic media types around see the intersection of politics with blogs, social networking groups and YouTube-like communities as an advance in democracy, erasing old barriers of the past and opening the door to greater civic participation. I’m more pessimistic – I think this convergence will make campaigns and candidates more programmed, more cautious and less likely to take chances that they are even now. Here’s why:

The increased availability of communication tools (especially video) and the means to distribute material for any individual with a computer, a video camera and passion for politics threatens to take away something political pros value more than just about anything else — control. There’s little more frightening to a media consultant or handler than a lack of control and, when faced with losing it, they’re going to try and get it back. One of the biggest nightmares for even the most carefully planned and executed campaigns remains that one moment, caught on camera forever, that can fatally wound them.
Ververs, obviously, thinks this could be a bad thing. His premise is with the old media, there was just so much air time or so many column inches which can to be spared political races. And, as such, much of the coverage is going to be dedicated to the "meat and potatoes" of the campaign and not to potentially damaging goofs, gaffes and flubs which can haunt and even ruin a campaign.

The "new media" changes all of that. All I have to do is go down to the local rally, turn on my digital video recorder and record until I can't record anymore. No deadline, no limit on content, none of the constraints of the old media in that regard. So, per Ververs, unlike the MSM, and depending on my politics or ideology, I could potentially be the one who exposes the goof, gaffe or flub which does the damage he talks about.

OK, I'm not sure why that's a terrible thing. Most reasonable people will recognize it as what it is ... a goof, a gaffe or a flub. Those who aren't going to vote for the candidate aren't going to be effected by it, and most likely neither will those who are on the candidate's side.

But what if it is something other than a goof, a gaffe or a flub? What if we catch he or she saying something out of the other side of their mouth which directly contradicts their public position? Worth knowing? I'd say so?

And since when is more information a bad thing? Isn't it the position of the NY Times that the more the pubic knows the better off they are? The MSM can't have it both ways.

Nope, this isn't about politicians loss of control. This is about the MSM's loss of control. Their exclusive ability to gather and deliver the "news" is history. It is they who now have to be more careful. It is they who have to ensure they "get it right". It is they who are being checked upon and exposed when they don't.

Politicians, as they normally do, will adapt to the new reality. They will understand that in the new era of the new media there is no "off the record" at public events. There is no tacit agreement anymore from friendly journalists to ignore certain things which may be unflattering to a campaign. In reality, the new media promises a more honest look at the political process instead of the manufactured look the old media presents.

It is not particularly surprising that this shows up on the CBS site, given it is institutions like CBS who have lost that exclusive position the old media once enjoyed and have yet to figure out what to do about it.
 
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This is an interesting and complex issue. To my mind, up until now the increase in media volume has had the effect of making politicians more programmed for fear that a single gaffe could derail their campaign. In the past, politicians only had to worry about a small number of MSM print and TV/radio reporters; and the reporters only had a relatively small amount of news space to fill, for example of the network nightly news programs. Relationships between the politicians and reporters could, and inevitably did, develop. Tacit deals were made as to what was on and off the record.

With the rise of cable television, however, things changed dramatically. Now there was a 24/7 void that needed to be filled. The news industry changed from selective (arguably overly so) to insatiable. Nothing was off the record; nothing was off limits. On the other hand, since the number of news sources was still relatively small — CNN, FOX, MSNBC added to the traditional news sources — there were still fairly tight constraints over the origins of news. The amount of news increased dramatically, while the number of news sources increased just a little. This, I think, made "gaffing" the primary fear of politicians, a single embarrassing moment replayed ad nauseum on 24-hour news channels, ultimately picked up by the traditional news outlets, potentially devastating a campaign in a single moment. Hence the rise of handlers, consultants, etc., whose primary job was to protect candidates from such gaffes, and who have purposefully removed the spontaneity from political candidates’ campaigns. I think that politics has suffered as a result. (Incidentally, I think this explains the groundswell of support for McCain’s 2000 campaign; he was relatively unscripted and refreshing.)

Now, however, the internet has emerged as a potent news source. Unlike the cable news channels, however, the internet is not only insatiable; it is also unlimited (or limited only by the audience’s capacity to absorb information). It remains to be seen what effect the internet will have on the spontaneity of political campaigns. On the one hand, a gaffe now can have even more profound consequences since the volume of reportage is stunningly higher. On the other hand, with so much reporting it may be impossible to maintain a fully-scripted campaign. The internet’s insistence upon raw information may be incompatible with the political consultants’ efforts to control every moment of a campaign.

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
How about if you get a politician to say "I enjoy cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do"?

Colbert & Congressman Wexler

I think that clip is going to make it to his 2008 race, even if he’s unopposed in 2006...
 
Written By: Brad Warbiany
URL: http://unrepentantindividual.com/
Prediction: the pols will try to find a way to limit the internet.

Except it’s not a prediction when they’ve already tried.
 
Written By: Charles Martin
URL: http://
I tend to agree with Ververs that politicians will try to exert more control. Look at how carefully controlled the audiences for all Bush appearances are. There is rarely any unedited video that makes it out of those gatherings. I think you will start to see others copy this format.

For a politician, the problem with the gaffe or flub is that it is all people talk about for some period of time. Look at Howard Dean’s scream. From that moment on, his campaign became about "the scream." His candidacy was likely dead in any event, but after the scream, he had no chance of recovery because nobody (MSM, blogs, watercooler) talked about anything else for days. That is the politicians fear, and it is a valid one.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
In the short term, many a politician will make some terrible gaffe and kill off his campaign, especially in local races. I don’t think that will be a problem for more than a few years, however: voters will adjust their expectations. Once we get used to seeing all candidates at their worst, we’ll make allowances, just as we no longer expect a candidate’s history to be lilly-white.

An extra-marital affair or a problem with cocaine is no longer a problem, if it’s far in a candidate’s past. Given a few years of "full exposure", an off-color joke or a primal scream won’t be a big deal either, because we’ll have the data to know whether it’s a pattern or an isolated incident.
 
Written By: Skorj
URL: http://
I think Skorj has the right of it - we’ll start letting politicians be people, too, and get more honest reactions and opinions from them in the long run.

Too, I think it’s somewhat silly for Ververs to claim the MSM has focused on the "meat and potatoes" of races very often since about 1965, or at least 1972. Far more often they’ve focused on the spectacle and the fad and the sideshow, to the point that I, at least, and I suspect many others, find ourselves asking, "But what are their positions? Why don’t you ask serious (open-ended, non-’push’) questions of the candidates?!"
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://
When it comes to getting out the vote they’re for it.

When it comes to getting out the information to vote rationally they’re against it.
 
Written By: Rick
URL: http://
In the short term, many a politician will make some terrible gaffe and kill off his campaign, especially in local races. I don’t think that will be a problem for more than a few years, however: voters will adjust their expectations. Once we get used to seeing all candidates at their worst, we’ll make allowances, just as we no longer expect a candidate’s history to be lilly-white.

An extra-marital affair or a problem with cocaine is no longer a problem, if it’s far in a candidate’s past. Given a few years of "full exposure", an off-color joke or a primal scream won’t be a big deal either, because we’ll have the data to know whether it’s a pattern or an isolated incident.
A plausible scenario. And a good result. I hope you’re right.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
Too, I think it’s somewhat silly for Ververs to claim the MSM has focused on the "meat and potatoes" of races very often since about 1965, or at least 1972. Far more often they’ve focused on the spectacle and the fad and the sideshow, to the point that I, at least, and I suspect many others, find ourselves asking, "But what are their positions? Why don’t you ask serious (open-ended, non-’push’) questions of the candidates?!"
Yep, I’ve grown up listening to sound bites from candidates. Only since the internet have I been able to get position statements, full transcripts, and what not.
we’ll start letting politicians be people,
Or more interestingly, we’ll get real people who will suffer the indignities of being elected.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Their exclusive ability to gather and deliver the "news" is history.

Well, yes. But that isn’t what has them upset. What has them upset is that their almost-exclusive ability to shape the "news" is history.

If something like Rathergate had happened a few years earlier, the fraudulent documents wouldn’t have been exposed for what they were. If something like Monica had happened a few years earlier (before Drudge), the MSM would have managed to keep it quiet. Or take the anti-gun stuff that went on during the early Clinton years; the dubious stories about "Black Talon" bullets and the misleading videos about deadly assault weapons (the videos showed full auto machineguns); if the MSM tried similar stunts now, they would be exposed as liars and charlatans.

And they don’t like that, not one bit.

 
Written By: Fredrik Nyman
URL: http://
Well, yes. But that isn’t what has them upset. What has them upset is that their almost-exclusive ability to shape the "news" is history.
That’s fair. In fact I thought about that when I commented this morning but for whatever reason, opted for the less controversial language (which is highly unlike me). Must have been a caffeine deficit problem. Too mellow.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t know what this adds, but if I recall, Ververs was the Managing Editor over at HOTLINE until just recently. Hotline is hardly considered traditional press, and Ververs himself has been known to take the MSM to task in the past,(example) so I wonder what’s leading him to some of what he writes, here.

(Shrug)Just sayin’....
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Like the other comments, I love the availibility of information from the net.

However, how do we as a society control outright slander/lies on the net. It would be impossible to take 100s of bloggers to court to get them to stop. If a group of popular bloggers got together and agreed to publish a set lie and stick to it on thier blogs they could have an huge impact on political races.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://

 
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