In September, Harvard University interviewed 1,207 people, nationwide, as part of a survey to discover general attitudes toward leadership issues and the 2008 Presidential elections. Of the most interesting results were a revealing set of attitudes toward the national press. From E&P:
• 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.For me, the most important data found here would be the 92% recognizing the importance of discussing policy, followed by the 61% who believe the media does not provide them with that information.
• 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.
• 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.
• 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidates’ specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.
• 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.
It raises the question of where people turn for information. If over 90% realize the importance of policy versus "fluff" pieces about lapel pins and waitress tipping, or, to be fair, a person's choice of faith (I hate when I have to stick up for Mitt, so for the record, he's still a liar), yet a majority also feel they are not getting this information from the national press, where do they turn? Reasonably, they would turn to local news and radio, but more interestingly, they would turn to the internet. Blogs, candidate websites, online forums, etc.
It is easy to misconstrue television ratings and newspaper subscriptions as relevant data on what venues we get our information, but speaking for myself, I realized long ago my print newspaper subscriptions were habit more than preference, and I cut them off. As more people trend away from these outlets (let's face it, the media is not going to change until we stop watching), following the call of more substantial information, a divide is growing between those who get their information from cable news and the selective nature of wire-service dependent print media, and generally this seems to be splitting along respective party lines. Progressives typically have a better grasp on online resources and internet presence than conservatives.
There is nothing revolutionary about such a gap (it is a historically circular trend), but it is worth noting that some may hang on to traditional sources much longer than they should, and become out of touch with relevant information. As we consider the future of the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party, it would benefit us to remain aware of the importance of reaching out to voters through these relatively new forms of disseminating information and party messaging. It is more than an effective campaign tool for Democrats in 2008, it is an opening for media-reformists and political activists to circumvent the corrupt, corporate driven media by simply speaking to the desire of concerned voters to better understand.