Monday, August 21, 2006

The Hand That Feeds


It was one simple word that Senator George Allen (R-VA) uttered at a campaign event a week ago that severely hindered his 2008 presidential contention (and sent everyone from the Washington Post to Wonkette into a tizzy), but it was a grassroots technology that let it happen.

Is YouTube changing the way we report politics?

In this weekend's New York Times, August's sleepy reputation for slow politics coverage does a 180, giving Joe Lieberman the boot to run as an independent and creating a virtual competition between his and then-challenger Ned Lamont's campaigns to moderate their exposure on the popular video site.

I often discuss how citizen reporting handles issues and events differently than conventional, or traditional, reporting. However, in this case, citizen reporting - that is, the preponderance of cameraphone-holding, YouTube-savvy people and the video-feed pipeline they create - might shape the event it's covering.

This new movement - the "big brother is watching" situation reversed - allows the masses to keep check on its own representatives in a time when it's a standard tactic to trash the press, keeping those representatives watching every word they utter outside of the walls of their home in fear it may go viral and ruin a campaign.

Just like the televised Kennedy/Nixon debates, a high-profile blowout on YouTube - say, if President Bush were to be caught in a small private rant against Christianity - could make waves just like Drudge did with Lewinsky. On a more positive note, the same technology could make a dark horse candidate a household name instantly if he plays his cards right on (handheld) camera.

All it takes is one word.

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