Campaign '08: The Year of the Blog

In 2004, when I was blogging at the Republican Convention, almost no one knew who bloggers were or what we were doing there. Those days are over. In 2008, blogs and new media are poised to by-pass mainstream media as the go-to place for American political campaigns.

As evidence, please excuse this bit of self- promotion…

In a recent interview with PJM's Bill Bradley, senior John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said:

When Senator McCain appears on Pajamas Media, when Senator McCain appears on a late night show, it's far more important, in terms of its impact on actual, real Americans, than the white noise that you see on a lot of the cable programs.

Why has this happened? Besides the obvious that there are now more blogs than grains of sand in Mongolia, in the fast-moving environment of the modern campaign when information and attitudes can shift on an hourly basis, online media are the natural place for readers to sort out the truth.

This would seem counterintuitive. Since their inception, blogs have been accused of being the Wild West, not subject to traditional fact-checking. But in many ways blogs are subject to more immediate fact-checking than mainstream media. A popular blogger has, in essence, thousands, often tens of thousands, of fact-checkers, many with specific domain knowledge, vetting him or her. Those thousands dwarf the number of “professional” fact-checkers any media organization, even the most wealthy, could conceivably afford.

In other words, blogs rely on the “wisdom of crowds” both for their fact-checking and, increasingly, the reporting of news. And they seem to be getting better and better at it.

No wonder sharp observers can see cable television frequently cannibalizing blogs for up-to-date campaign analysis and other political reporting -- even though, with the growing economic competition between new and old media, this is often carried out without attribution.

Meanwhile, the presidential campaigns, as the quote from Schmidt above indicates, are well aware of the power of blogs. But the candidates and their advisers seem to be exploiting it differently and employing different philosophies.