APC: How Electronic Media is Affecting the Political Campaigns

Last Thursday I made the intrepid journey to downtown Atlanta to attend my first Atlanta Press Club event: How Electronic Media is Affecting the Political Campigns. The podcast is available here.

The four panelists were:

  • Tom Baxter – Southern Political Report
  • John Helton – Cnn.com
  • Shelby Highsmith – Shelbinator.com
  • James Williams – Griftdrift

I thought the panel was a pretty good balance between big media and the new media blogger types. On one hand you had Cnn.com, which recorded 97 million page views on super Tuesday, and on the other you have some fairly small blogs which get perhaps dozens of page views a day (at most).

There were some interesting comments which I thought were relevant to some of the work I do:

  • CNN had to hire another layer of staff to check comments on its site; this is the same way that comments are handled on NYTimes.com and seems to be the defacto way of making sure people are clean and play fair.
  • Political campaigns muster blogger power to 1) get their message out and 2) pounce on the other guys if they have an inaccuracy. This has the weird effect of making something that (I think) we still perceive as authentic, the Blogosphere, and makes it actually much more of a manipulated, top-down “forum.”
  • Each blogger is only responsible for 1 little information niche; this is what can make them valuable.

This left me with a few questions for further thought:

  • How could you computationally determine authenticity?
    • Detect similar words? Structure? See if bloggers are just reposting what the campaign is feeding them?
  • If something gets corrected once on one blog, how could those corrections be syndicated out to wherever else that content is replicated online?