Michael Scherer has an excellent article in Salon today on a significant way that the Internet is altering the pace and direction of political campaigns, while also subtly changing the role of political journalists, not for the better. To boil it down, the growth of blogs and alternative journalistic outlets (Drudge Report, etc.) has given political opposition researchers a huge number of new avenues to distribute dirt or distracting information about a rival while still maintaining their own anonymity. In the process, political reporters risk losing their investigative role in favor of being channels for stories that campaigns are driving behind the scenes. Some excerpts:
Though reporters, and blogs like the Drudge Report, take credit for scoops, the news of the day is more often than not produced by the invisible hand of one campaign or another.
Of course, such leaks of prepackaged stories are not new…[but] what has changed is the pace and profusion of stories based on opposition research, especially this early in the campaign cycle. There are now more outlets clamoring for the information than ever before, and more competition from reporters for the latest “scoop.”
In the past, the major networks, newspapers and magazines were the primary outlets for opposition research, but the Internet has changed the game.
The article goes into detail about how some well-known stories have spread and is well worth a read, particularly the questions it raises about the role of political journalists in passing stories along and about the biases and distortions that these new outlets can introduce into the process. Apparently Drudge [hearts] Romney, for instance, and not every blog is going to be a stickler for the truth (shocker).
Also in Salon today, Tom Tomorrow’s take on political punditry a world where haircuts trump policy.