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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bennett Nails New Media's Impact on Politics, Government

Did you read Bill Bennett's "Whither the Mainstream Media" on RealClearPolitics.com yet? If not, you are behind the curve, my friend, because Bennett has written what I believe to be the most discerning analysis yet of the implications of the New Media for politics and government. There is much more to the piece but these two points strike me as the core of Bennett's observations:
First, one in five Americans now get the bulk of their news online, double the number from just four years ago. Bennett argues that is the most significant statistic to come out of the 2004 campaign:

"After the election, many statistics emerged. Perhaps the most interesting do not have to do with the mere shifts in the Catholic, Jewish, Black, or Hispanic votes. But, rather, why those shifts took place. Those shifts took place in part because of these statistics from the Pew Research Center: 41% voters say they got at least some of their news about the 2004 election online. Further, 21% relied on the Internet for most of their election news, nearly double the number in 2000."

Think about that for a second - we are only at the cusp of a "wired" society but fully a fifth of us depend upon web sites for our news. Put another way, in less than a decade, we've moved from virtually no one depending upon the web as their main news source to a fifth of us doing so. Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that is a significantly faster rate of growth than we saw with television news during the 1950s and 1960s.
Bennett's second point is what these web news addicts are doing with their constantly expanding universe of information sources. They are shaping the rest of the media, especially Talk Radio, and in the process enriching, enlivening, correcting and directing the national conversation on public policy issues:

"People now get their news and opinion on the Internet and relay it to talk radio. They then think about it, research it further, and discuss it on the Internet, in email, and in the national conversations that take place on shows like mine all the time ...
"This new media makes news, national priorities, and fact-checking a much more democratic thing, giving all consumers of news—all citizens—a new birthright to their democracy and to their citizenship. It empowers all of us with the ability to find the truth of a story or a claim, to make judgments rather than have judgments made for us."

With a traditional MSM outlet like CBS News or The New York Times, there is no response mechanism for news consumers, they must take what they are given or leave it. The New Media is truly inter-active and democratic, compared to the one-sided dictatorial pronouncements of the MSM. Politicians, bureaucrats and MSM journalists who don't understand this new reality sooner or later will be Ratherized.