For my money the wisest of the media watchers, Jay Rosen of NYU and PressThink, made three essential points in conversation this morning about the Democratic convention.
1. “The bloggers, for all their faults and shenanigans and self-absorption, really were the news at this convention. They represented the new. And that is why they received so much attention.” For several days, in traditional media, bloggers were the story, because “there’s an arrow over their heads that points forward. They represent the future, to journalists.” The traditional press was “going through the motions while the bloggers were defining their motions for the first time.” Bloggers didn’t change the convention narrative, but neither do the old reporters believe their own narrative anymore. “People in the blogging world were much more alive and interested and amazed by where they were. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
2. The forty-year marriage of political conventions and network television–symbolized by those TV skyboxes high above courtside that spun the broadcast story line–looks in retrospect like a long case of unrequited love. From 1960 to 2000, as Jay Rosen summed it up, the conventions kept saying: ‘television, we love you. Look, we’ll change this… we’ll build our podium so it looks like a studio… we’ll sculpt our politicians so they look like actors… we’ll speak in soundbites…’ And television was kind of walking away at the same time. Now it’s unmistakable. Three hours, after gavel-to-gavel coverage? It’s so meagre–it’s crumbs!–that it’s forcing people in politics to think in different ways. So you saw the explosion of other media at this convention that in the end are going to take the momentum away from these players who aren’t really all that big.”
3. The transformation of media continues. The barriers to entry are not just down, they’re gone. The tools of the new journalism are cheap, so the conversation is bound to get ever more democratic, expressive, global. Jay Rosen had his own epiphany writing for PressThink: “I was competing with the newspapers, in a way. But I felt I had many advantages. I felt freer than they were… I realized: I can define this event any damn way I want. I can call a player anyone I regard as a player. Politics changes when it is subject to freedom of interpretation, which it always should have been.” Traditional media “may be a little bit empty. It might lack some conviction. It certainly doesn’t have a lot of energy and creativity and bounce and belief to it. But it’s still very powerful and very big.” It says a lot that so many newspapers hired bloggers, or imitated them, at this convention. “You know you’re getting somewhere,” Jay Rosen said, “when the Big Foots have to acknowledge that there is something out there that they don’t anticipate and that they can’t necessarily control.”
It may have been a watershed convention, after all. Listen here.