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Blogs and New Media Playing Central Role in Presidential Politics

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WASHINGTON, June 11 - Technology and being connected on the Internet are playing a central role in the upcoming election, a panel of new media-style journalists and campaign operatives said Wednesday.

Speaking on a panel about covering the campaign at an event, "The First 21st Century Campaign," sponsored by Google and the publication National Journal, former press officials with the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney marveled at the speed with which they were forced to respond to a range of media inquiries.

Kevin Madden, press secretary to Romney, recalled an incident when, while responding on the phone to a press inquiry from a top Washington Post reporter, he was simultaneously responding via his computer to a new-style journalist for a political blog.

Panelist Mary Katherine Ham, formerly with the conservative blog, and now with the Washington Examiner, said that the Internet- and blog- inspired new media gave citizens the opportunity to report -- and turned reporters into personalities.

Ham and other panelists, including Mark Halperin, of Time magazine, said that today, YouTube videos like those of “Obama girl” provided a ready platform for true amateurs to inject their perspectives -- and their reporting -- into the news cycle.

Other journalists coming out of nowhere include panelist James Kontiki. He interviewed six presidential candidates, on YouTube, from his dorm room at Georgetown University.

Kontiki said that, initially, he didn't think of his video intervies as journalism. He acknowledged that the ease with which one can become a “journalists” does raise questions of credibility. But he said that individual Internet users can judge that for themselves.

For Ham, "new media is straightforward,” rather than attempting to conceal biases, the way the mainstream media has done.

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