Former Campaign Manager for Howard Dean, Joe Trippi, made a speech at O’Reilly‘s recent Emerging Technology Conference. He talked about how the Internet (specifically blogging and social tools) will be the a revolution for politics as it allows for a freer debate on the issues than the mass media would allow (or could manage), how they used it to engage new activists and get “200,000 … signed up in over 1000 cities and towns” and raise $45 million — “more than any Democrat in history has raised, including Bill Clinton as sitting President”, but how the “media’s portrayal out of context” managed to damage the campaign. A stream of the speech, along with links to the notes of several bloggers, can be found here.
Well, you’ll never guess what happened next! Mass-media organisation Reuters comes out with an article which spins the whole speech around, claiming that Joe talked about how the Internet “Failed Dean in Crunch“. Techdirt has all of the details, but while the poster there says “I’m not one who believes that bloggers are a ‘threat’ to journalism”, I think the point of this is that online blogging and social networking tools were able to provide points of view to the public other than those of a supposedly reputable mainstream source (plus provide a forum for people to debate these views), and show that the mainstream source was blatantly wrong. That is the threat that bloggers and social tools pose to traditional journalism; not extinction, as centralised news sources have many advantages over ‘distributed journalism’, but a requirement for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as readers (and viewers) are basically going to make up their own minds and walk away. As Joe Trippi said, “This couldn’t have happened earlier. The Internet wasn’t mature enough. The tools weren’t there in 2000.” This is only the beginning as the Internet still has a lot of maturing to do.