Look Who’s Talking

23 09 2009

For centuries, the link between the media and politics has been evident and influential on public opinion and political decisions. The opening chapter of Jim Willis’ book, The Media Effect, highlights page after page of anecdotes documenting examples of times in our recent history that political action; be it declaration of war, presidential elections, or decisions to enter and aid distressed nations, were determined by the media’s portrayal of the event.

As Chuck Tyron discusses in his blog, The Chutry Experiment, the notion of activists filming small, unheard of events is not a novel one. But as video recording and editing equipment becomes cheaper and more mainstream, this fad is expanding beyond the most extreme of activists with agendas focused solely on propelling their ideals.

In rising frequency, we are seeing ordinary citizens transform into trusted journalists before our You Tube-hooked eyes. This cultural phenomenon, based on the rising trust in peers over big businesses, is being called the groundswell and suggests that no longer must one obtain a Journalism degree or achieve a reporting job at a media conglomerate to reach such a lofty position as to influence public opinion and alter the course of the government.

On September 12, Glenn Beck supporters charged the Capitol lawn in Washington to protest Obama’s healthcare reform and administration in general. Among them were journalists from every news organization assigned to cover the event, as well as hundreds of independent reporters that showed up in jeans and sneakers.

One of these reporters was Max Blumenthal, a tongue-in-cheek, self-proclaimed “investigative reporter” who is challenging modern journalism with a camera and a tight grasp on social media.  Blumenthal’s piece spent every second of his nearly seven minute piece to beat down and poke fun at the tea-bagger party with clever comments and smart editing used to direct the viewer’s attention from one extremist to the next. His video, posted on YouTube shortly after the event, has already reached over 107,000 views and generated almost 1,500 comments- proof that Americans are turning to social media sites to not only get news information but also to make decisions on political issues.

The day of striking deals with newspaper companies or news organizations is over because these conglomerates aren’t the only ones out there anymore; independent reporters and individual citizens are now speaking up. By enlisting the use of non-traditional social media to accelerate their exposure to audiences that would be otherwise unreachable,  citizens are bringing a new face to politics. And you can bet that on September 26 when Mt. Vernon hosts “Glenn Beck Day,” an event officially closed off to the press, everyone else’s eyes, ears, and cell phone cameras will be wide open.

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3 responses

23 09 2009
Caroline Blanzaco

It is interesting that not only companies are involved and discussed in social media, but politicians and governmental issues as well. The fact that people aren’t just going online to read reviews about products they are interested in purchasing, but to read opinions on politicians to help them learn and found their own thoughts is something new that politicians are going to have to combat and embrace. The days of trying to get positive stories in the paper do seem to be over because of these self-made journalists that are going out there and making an impact on how people view their leaders. With people counting on each other for advice, social media will keep expanding to focus more on the government and other industries as well.

23 09 2009
Casey Shaw

Sally, first let me say that I am really looking forward to reading your blog and learning more about social media and politics. I definitely realize that I’m pretty ignorant to a lot of the things going on right now in our government. I had no idea about this “Tea Bag” party, and the video you posted was downright terrifying! I tried to look at it with some subjectivity, considering your description of it’s creator, but it was hard not to think the people depicted weren’t a bunch of crazies! I think that social media is going to play a huge part in upcoming politics, just like normal media has for the past century. Kudos for writing a great entry and finding that video!

27 09 2009
Amy English

I completely agree that citizen journalism has taken over. Cell phones, you-tube and inexpensive equipment have allowed your average Joe to become as influential, if not more, than a network anchorman. The Youtube video was comical, but educational at the same time. I would much rather watch that short clip than a 60 Minutes presentation of the protest. I am, however, still afraid that the newspaper industry will have vanished entirely by the time I’m fifty and want to sit down with a cup of coffee, my reading glasses and the Boston Globe. I’m interested too see just how influential citizen journalists become in our peer-to-peer world, where trust is expected with peers, but a privilege with politicians.

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