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How Blogosphere Is Influencing the Presidential Election

I will be on an election Postmortem panel at Kennesaw State University on Thursday and my topic will be the blogosphere and the election. Here are some bullet points I am assembling for the talk, got any others? Let me know:

  • First point to remember. Blogs are simply a blank piece of paper. They can be used any way the blog publisher wants to use his or her blog. They can strive for truth, for example, PolitiFact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, which parses ads for how truthful they are and how false they are.

In the past, a campaign would put out a lie. The news media aiming to be balanced would restate the lie and then get both sides to comment on it. Even a blatant lie got repeated so often, that it had traction within voters’ consciousnesses. It’s a lot harder to do so with PolitiFact fact-checking ads and talking points and then rating them with the worst offenders getting a Pants-on-Fire lie rating with a graphic to emphasize the point.

  • Blogs can be a powerful force for justice, even if they are leaning in one direction or the other. For example, TalkingPointsMemo exposed the US Attorneys firings, which eventually meant the downfall of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and has had ramifications directly into the more recent claims of voter registration fraud. Here are self reported facts from TalkingPointsMemo for October 2008:

Absolute Unique Visitors: 3.12 million
Visits: 15.29 million
Page Views: 30.99 million.

  • Blogs can be amazing tools for mobilizing forces. For example, obscure Minnesota US Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann called Barack Obama unpatriotic on Hardball with Chris Matthews and said he that he should be investigated. Within hours the left-leaning blogosphere started a campaign to fund her fully unknown opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg. In days he receives $1.4 million dollars from independent contributors via the blogosphere. The influx of money for advertising almost immediately begins to diminish a Bachmann advantage and puts her seat in play.
  • Blog sites like and have running commentaries on every poll and parse every number. They are all about the horse race and nothing about the issues, but they are addictive.
  • Blogs allow individuals like me to be a player in a way that would have been impossible five years ago. At my blog, which talks about citizen media, I try to practice what I preach so occasionally I do a citizen journalism post. Here are two examples:

During the primary Rudy Giuliani came to Marietta, Ga where I live. I took out my still camera with video capabilities and went to the town square. Giuliani got met by a large Ron Paul counter-demonstration. I got it all on video and uploaded it to my site and to my blog. It received 6,700 views. I did another one last week of people waiting in an early vote presidential election line; it got 230 views. Combined those are about 7,000 sets of eyeballs diverted from other mainstream media, and I am just one guy with a little still camera with video capabilities. Multiple that times that other tens of thousands people doing similar posting and you have a real movement on your hands. How big?

  • YouTube videos mentioning either Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain have been viewed 2.3 billion times, according to the measurement firm TubeMogul.
  • “SNL” videos proved to be particularly popular online; Tina Fey’s impressions were viewed more than 50 million times.
  • With 5 million views since March, Mr. Obama’s 37-minute speech about race is the most popular video on his YouTube channel. (New York Times, Nov. 2, 2008)
  • A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October found that 39 percent of registered voters had watched campaign videos online.
  • Four years ago in the 2004 election there was no YouTube.

So what about the overflow of information,  how can we tell the good from the bad, misinformation from good information? Part of our challenge as a university is to advance media literacy, but which is more democratic a few brand-name monopolistic media organizations dominating the news or a cacophony of voices?

Right now people are voting with their eyeballs for a cacophony of voices. Plus they are coming out to the polls in record numbers and they have a wealth of information unavailable to them in the past.

We do have some some problems looming. Much of the stimulus for the conversation comes from mainstream news sites, producing hard-to-gather journalism. The free blogosphere is undermining  the old business models that have supported quality journalism. How will solid journalism be supported in the future? We don’t know, but remember just four years ago there was no YouTube so anything is possible.

One Response to “How Blogosphere Is Influencing the Presidential Election”

  1. Havana Says:

    I was at the PostMortem forum and found it absolutely fascinating to hear the commentary from so many different perspectives! I found your comments really interesting; it’s so crazy that it’s only been 4 years since the last campaign but blogging has impacted this campaign so heavily. Obama ran an incredible campaign. I wish I had found these links above, though!

    It will definitely be interesting to see what will happen to journalism, though. Do you think blogging will also balloon the number of “Independents”? Or bring third parties into the light (though during this campaign, it was rather hard to move your attention from the superstars)? I’ve always felt that Americans have fallen into complacency with the system– the most anyone does is complain about it but there isn’t really a big amount of activism anymore and I’ve always wondered if it was due to the influence of the media. Now that we have access to so many OTHER outlets for information and opinions can be published so easily, do you think that will nudge Americans OUT of complacency?

    If you have the time, I would love to hear your thoughts. I wish the postmortem thing went on longer, haha. I’m currently bouncing around the idea of changing my major to international affairs … do you teach anything in that area? :)