AR; a reading diary of the New York Times

Without a doubt, Michael Schudson has quite some authority on the field of political communication and democratic theory; if he expected that he can get away with publishing a rather informal, not quite scientific paper in a scientific journal (Javnost – The Public), my guess would that he was right to do so.

Which doesn’t change the fact that his paper “The New Media in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign: The New York Times Watches Its Back” is rather a reading diary of sorts, than a scientific, detailed and precise analysis. In general, I’d imagine that Krippendorff or Fairclough would frown upon this kind of “analysis” – let’s see what narratives about “new media” I establish from reading the NYT during a presidential (pre-)election campaign -; but its results are, nevertheless, worthy of attention. In short:

“new media” matter. Somewhat.

Throughout the campaign, there were examples of “new media” noticeably and significantly influencing the agenda of the NYT; and this influence did cause some anxiety among professional journalists (hence the title).

This article finds that the news coverage [of the NYT] emphasized a new intensity, a remarkable ubiquity, and a note of anarchism in the new communication media, enabling citizens with little connection to candidate or party power centres to at least briefly gain national notoriety in political news.

…which seems to correspond to the results I arrived at through the source and agenda analysis of social news websites! The main players of the campaign are the politicians themselves, their parties and their collective armies of PR; but every now and then Joes-the-plumber emerge, and raise questions e.g. about who owns a political campaign – or at least the website of a given candidate.

On the other hand, if there is one area where Schudson’s informal treatment of his subject material is especially to the detriment of the study, it is his un-definition of what is “new media.” As I mentioned countless times, the new-old distinction might be meaningless; the real dividing line – undoubtedly different to the one produced by the new-old distinction – should be drawn between mainstream and alternative, or between professional and independent.

Schudson, Michael (2009): “The New Media in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign: The New York Times Watches Its Back” in: Javnost – The Public, 16. (1), 73-86.

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