Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Newsweek figures it out

Jonathan Alter wrote an interesting piece for Newsweek recently, titles "Adios, Sound Bites, and Fat Cats." In it, he looks at how the Internet's affected the political process.

The media and fund-raising rules have undergone a huge change this year. The era of sound bites and fat cats may be coming to a close.

It took me a while to grasp this. On the morning of March 18, when I read an advance text of Obama's Philadelphia speech on race, I told my wife that it was well written but contained no eight- to 15-second sound bites to counteract the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s greatest hits. Under the old rules, a 37-minute speech full of complex ideas didn't stand a chance against the excitement of "good TV." Of course, I was wrong. Obama's speech has now been played on YouTube nearly 5.5 million times, with viewers presumably watching at least a few minutes of it.
It's a good article, and I'm glad I read it.

I do appreciate his admission that it took a while to grasp the change. "C.E. Conversations" isn't really a political blog -- I'm primarily concerned about new technologies (and old pop culture). Yet even I figured it out back in September of last year. I further articulated these startling new concepts in early February ("The Virtual Body Politic"), early March ("Politics as (un)usual" and "Political Pushback" ), late March ("Citizen Fact-checkers" and "Political Talkback").

And I freely admit I'm a latecomer to this party compared to commentators to this blog like Cameron, Samuel Brainsample, and Sean Tubbs. And I'm sure they could site others who "got it" even earlier than they did. This may be a new concept to Mr. Alter, but it's old news to the online community.

It's not quite the Rome/Nero analogy, but while mainstream media continued their unending cycle of sound bites and accompanying parsing by pundits, something interesting happened online. Something that's now been officially deemed newsworthy.

People haven't been waiting for mainstream media to filter the news for them. They've been reporting -- and deciding -- for themselves.

- Ralph

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