The other day, a colleague from across the pond asked what’s surprised me about media coverage of the 2008 election. Josh Levy articulates my answer more eloquently than I did: with one notable exception, citizen journalism has not illuminated voters much:
Outside of exposing Bittergate to the masses (albeit a major feat), the citizen brigade hasn’t had much impact on the narrative of the race….Recently I realized that, when the chips are down — when it’s less than two weeks out from The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime — I always turn to the pros. For me, the best analysis of the election is being done by people who do it for a living. Pros, of course, are a different breed now than they were five or seven or ten years ago. That category now includes folks like Talking Points Memo, the Politico’s Ben Smith, and Andrew Sullivan….No amateur blogger — defined as someone who isn’t being paid to blog — has been able to fill this void….In a return to the halcyon days before comments, it turns out that readers — responding to blogs via e-mail, of all things — are the new citizen journalists.
Of course, the “bitter” comment, the reporting of which Levy rightly credits to citizen journalism, was not mentioned at all in blogger Mayhill Fowler’s original report on Obama’s April 6 San Francisco fundraiser, and was buried at the end of the 6th paragraph of a later report. Marc Cooper, the professional journalist who edited the piece, recounted the process that led to the impactful story.
(None of this is news to folks like Seth Finkelstein, I grant you.)
Will the collaboration between YouTube and PBS, Video Your Vote, break any significant stories on November 4th?