Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thoughts on Peter Hamby's Report on Twitter

This report was solid enough I felt motivated to dig up my old blog and post my personal thoughts on it. To read Peter Hamby (a political reporter at CNN)'s full report, read it here.

A synopsis:

This paper will examine the merits of being a reporter “on the bus” during a presidential
campaign, at a time when Twitter and other web-driven developments in the media
have broken down walls between the political press and the public. A political junkie
can follow a campaign minute-by-minute with Twitter, watch it via live-streamed
campaign events, or read about it on a growing number of niche news outlets devoted to
covering even the most incremental developments in politics.
But as some walls are crumbling, others are going up.
With Instagram and Twitter-primed iPhones, an ever more youthful press corps, and a journalistic reward structure in Washington that often prizes speed and scoops over context, campaigns are increasingly fearful of the reporters who cover them. Any perceived gaffe or stumble can become a full-blown narrative in a matter of hours, if not minutes, thanks to the velocity of the Twitter conversation that now informs national reporters, editors and television producers. In fact, this paper will argue Twitter is the central news source for the Washington-based political news establishment. This filter- free new ecosystem is having a profound impact on how campaign strategists are deciding to present their candidates to the media and to voters. The speed and shallow nature of today’s political journalism has rattled elected officials, candidates and their advisers in both parties, from the smallest city hall on up to the top levels of the White House.

Candidates and politicians are increasingly trying to present their messages on their
own terms, either through politically friendly news outlets or their own social media
channels. More and more, the mainstream political press is being cut out of the election
process, raising questions about the value of being a reporter on the bus, on the plane, or
“in the bubble” with a presidential candidate.
My thoughts:

1) Very well done and very thorough. Specifically about how Twitter and the 24 hour news cycle damaged the relationship between the news media's campaign embeds and the Romney operation, but also more broadly discusses changes in the field of political journalism with the rise of new media. In general, any 2016 campaign should be reading this to get an edge on their new media operation, and even certain 2014 campaigns could stand to benefit.

2) The suggestions are good, but Hamby is only looking at fixing campaign coverage, not policy coverage- which is significant in that, if we simply get to a better form of campaign coverage, we are still lacking what Cronkite et al lamented in the 70s (a lack of substance in political journalism in general).

3) The piece is not critical enough towards the Obama campaign. At times it starts to say these problems were not exclusive to Romney, but it is clear only a few Obama sources were consulted and the critical (but fair) look to the Romney campaign was not replicated for Obama- Obama sources are taken at face value even when Hamby laments the constraints placed on access to an incumbent president.

4) Hamby notes that a candidate in 2016 might be able to strongly benefit from an open, free-flowing relationship with their embeds in 2016. Mentions Rubio, Santorum and Hickenlooper, but I think Cruz might fit well here. Rand seems more personal for this type of relationship, and Christie may be too willing to sound off and get himself shot in the foot. Cruz is practiced at extemporaneous speaking though.