So What?

30 10 2009

Over the past several weeks, we have explored many different facets of the U.S. political system that have taken the leap into social media and made an online presence for themselves; government agencies, political candidates, established leaders and more. But what difference does it make?

As professionals in the communications industry and even simply as American citizens, it is important for us to acknowledge the changing tone of political journalism. Steven Davy’s post on MediaShift discusses this shift to online reporting and political discussion. So the question is, will the implementation of new online media prove advantageous to our political system or harmful? To answer this we must break down the system into the different groups being considered: the government and the public.

The rising use of social media offers politicians and the government as a whole an opportunity to put a human face on a previously unapproachable entity. I would say this is beneficial for the public to have more of a hand in politics and more awareness to the candidates they are selecting for office, but mutually beneficial for politicians because for the first time they are receiving instant feedback. Public opinion polls have never been easier to come by!

In addition, the low cost of social media is changing the way campaigns operate and opening up the idea of running for office to a whole new group of people, offering a wider range of politicians for the public to chose from. If Americans want change in Washington, it appears a different type of politician is the way.

However, opinions on the impact of new media on politics do vary. Capitol Watch reported on a Pew study that suggests that with the advantages that social media presents to politics come many drawbacks for both the government and the public. Never before have political leaders been so exposed to the public and their personal lives sacrificed at such a level. The constant coverage of politics that I’ve previously discussed impacts the government in regard to both national security issues and crisis communication.

In addition, the public discussion of politics online offers readers and critics a level of ambiguity that sometimes proves damaging. The Pew study I mentioned expresses concern over the idea that only those with extreme views take the time to post opinions on forums and repeated exposure to this may alter public opinion.

It’s difficult to discern exactly what new media’s impact on politics will be, but experts can agree that it is already shifting the scene and journalists, politicians, and especially the American public must acknowledge and react to.

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One response

31 10 2009
Casey Shaw

In my opinion, I think social media is a great idea in politics. Humanizing politicians who seem unapproachable is one way to get the apathetic public to be a little more involved in such an important institution. Also, social media fosters accountability, which is always an important thing with elected officials. Imagine if social media had been around during the Watergate scandal! LIke you said, social media is shifting the scene, but I think that it is for the better.

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