James Poniewozik has a great article in Time on the media and this presidential election that hits on a few points I’d been thinking about as well. The first is the insatiable appetite the public has had for this election. From polling sites to The Note and First Read, the Internet has allowed the average voter to track this election like they’re James Carville or George Stephanopoulos. (See too Eugene Robinson’s humorous take on this.) Poniewozik attributes this to the very high stakes the electorate sees in this election. Poniewozik makes the obvious point that this rapid feed of news has moved us from a 24-hour news cycle to a 24-minute news cycle, but makes what I think is an interesting argument that this “souped-up cycle” has not made the election more trivial but, in fact, raised the level by keeping voters engaged. The McCain campaign clearly fell into the media’s bait of 24-minute news while the Obama campaign stuck with their message from the primary on, and won.
The “media formerly known as mainstream,” as Poniewozik so aptly calls them, had to adapt in this election to anything becoming news at any time. Candidates utilizing nontraditional media like The View and The Late Show to reach voters made names like Elisabeth Hasselbeck and David Letterman somehow political, and traditional news outlets like CNN responded by adding names like D.L. Hughley to its roster of David Gergen-talking heads. He points out the power of nontraditional media to drive the debate was enhanced by the blogosphere, but voters still rely on the mainstream media to validate their political news. This, on a broader scale, was a thought I’ve had many times this week as we saw what the public sought in the days after Obama’s win. Print and mainstream may never go too far.