Beware of the Bloggers

April 27, 2009 at 11:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Take a look at Jon Ward’s article in today’s Washington Times: “Fractured Media No Match for Obama”. Ward writes a smart piece on how the newly fractured media impacts the WH communications effort.  Does it hurt or help? Since my studies next fall will focus on the blogosphere’s evolution into the 4th estate, I took particular interest in how Gibbs perceives this modern media landscape:

“There are so many outlets and so many places that are driving the news that, in the end, nothing gets driven,” Mr. Gibbs said.

It is harder for the White House to hammer “a central narrative,” Mr. Gibbs said, but “stories that you think are going to drive in a negative way maybe don’t have the impact” they would have had in the past…

Another senior WH officials said,

“The power dynamic has shifted for three reasons. One, there are more media sources than there ever were before. Two, there’s no money.  Newspapers are bleeding money.  There aer so many channels that the network channels are bleeding viewers.  They’re less powerful.  They control less than they did before.

“And three, Obama is more popular than all of them combined.”

Considering Obama’s unprecedented engagement with the blogosphere, both on the campaign trail and now inside the WH, I was surprised O’s comm team didn’t acknowledge the netroots as playing a more crucial role in driving the news cycle.  Yes, newspapers and network channels, once firmly steering the daily narrative, have far less control, (and I predict print editions will be gone in a a year or two) but I think that power and influence has shifted to the web, not the White House.

I witnessed the power shift myself over the last 4 years.  Working as a producer at MSNBC, I’d say the majority of news stories and editorial decisions for most shows are driven, in large part, by blogs that generate the highest decibel web chatter.  Huffington Post, Politico, ThinkProgress.org are on non-stop refresh.

And even though the majority of blogs tend to be more left-leaning, they aren’t always favorable to Obama. Remember, it was only last summer when Obama came under attack from left wing activist bloggers for his vote in support of FISA legislation. Clamoring on the web over Obama and FISA grew so loud, it caught the attention of mainstream media newsrooms, and before long Obama’s online scuffle with angry bloggers was making the #1 story on Countdown. To pacify the bloggers, Obama put out a carefully worded statement defending his position.  Those satisfied with Obama’s explanation, backed off…but I see the current torture issue generating the same kind of ire from the left, with Obama’s administration already performing a series of political acrobatics to get out front of the message–further proof  O’s popularity isn’t eternally buoyant, nor should his comm team underestimate the influence blogs have over the narrative.

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