Not so today. The ratings of the nightly newscasts have been on a downward trajectory since the 1980 campaign, as voters have been presented with other means of following the news. New Media has emerged: talk radio, Fox News Channel, the proliferation of Internet weblogs, which together make up the blogosphere. The left liberalism that is the political faith of practically all the personnel of Old Media is now being challenged by the various political faiths of New Media. Old Media no longer controls the agenda.
But it tries. At two crucial points in the campaign, Old Media used leaks from dubious sources to run stories intended to hurt the Bush campaign. The first was Dan Rather’s Sept. 8 “60 Minutes” story on Bush’s Texas Air National Guard record based on documents supplied by Texas Bush-hater Bill Burkett. CBS, admirably, posted the documents on its websites, and within 14 hours bloggers – led by frontpage.com, powerlineblog.com and littlegreenfootballs.com – had demonstrated that these purported 1972 documents had been produced on Microsoft Word. CBS’s document experts, it turned out, had refused to authenticate them. Not until Sept. 20 did Rather acknowledge the documents were dubious. The story hurt Rather and CBS, not Bush.
Old media expended a tremendous amount of effort to unseat President Bush, and ultimately, utterly failed, bringing down its own reputation and seriously tarnishing its credibility. Barone touched on this in his previous column:
This year his job rating has hovered around 50 percent or below. He has been the target all year of vicious and biased coverage from old media, many if not most of whose personnel saw their job as removing this scourge from the presidency. The 60 Minutes story about Bush’s Air National Guard service, which was based on obviously forged documents, is only the most egregious example. Old media have headlined violence in Iraq and reported almost nothing about positive developments there; they highlighted the charges of self-promoter Joseph Wilson and spoke nary a word when they were proved bogus; they have given good economic news far less positive coverage, studies show, than they did when Bill Clinton was in office.
Yet the results of this election closely resemble the 2002 House results. Bush beat Kerry 51 to 48 percent; the popular vote for the House appears to be about 51 to 47 percent Republican. Voters knew the stakes–polls showed majorities thought this was an important and consequential election–and both candidates had plenty of opportunity to make their cases. Thanks to the 527s, more money was apparently spent against Bush than for him. So the results cannot be dismissed as an accident. We are now a 51 percent nation, a Republican majority, as, once again in America, love has proved stronger than hate.
This election will be remembered for the citizen journalists in the blogosphere, who kept the public better informed, and brought out stories which otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day.