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Media lessons/trends from the 22-month election cycle

With days remaining until the presidential election, you may feel as if you're drowning in political media. Believe me, I feel your pain. • Still, I hope you find the strength to peruse the Five Biggest Election Media Lessons/Trends I've seen during the 22 months we've spent watching Barack Obama and John McCain run for president:

1The new medium politicians must own is online. Forget the Nixon/Kennedy comparisons on the candidates' TV images: The medium where Obama really outflanked McCain is the Internet. Online, Obama raised many millions of dollars, spread videos touting his candidacy, debuted a "fact-checking" Web site to combat negative rumors and used e-mail lists to mobilize volunteers and potential voters. "While McCain was using his resources to own the news cycle, Obama was registering voters," said media analyst Andrew Tyndall.
2Instant fact-checking emerges. Back in 2004, when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised questions about Democrat John Kerry's war record, news outlets took weeks to vet the incendiary charges. This time around, Web sites such as and the St. Petersburg Times' vetted claims made during the debates within hours. Both the candidates and media know: These days, attack, response and vetting must be immediate.
3Political satire achieved what journalism couldn't. Despite constant cable TV coverage, it took The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey to puncture some of the campaigns' biggest absurdities, from the media's love for Obama to Sarah Palin's populist pandering. No wonder CNN and Fox News now have shows blending comedy and news; this is where the cultural action is.
4Liberals developed a media echo chamber to mirror conservatives. Just as talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times newspaper and Fox News Channel create an echo chamber of right-leaning messages, liberals developed a smaller but similar media structure — including MSNBC, blogs such as the Huffington Post and Daily Kos, and the Air America radio network.
5Political success equals positive coverage. A Project for Excellence in Journalism study discovered McCain got more negative coverage because his campaign wasn't as successful. Stories on McCain grew harsher as Obama's poll numbers improved and McCain's actions during September's financial crisis drew criticism. "The old 'nothing succeeds like success' adage was completely reinforced by our study," said PEJ associate director Mark Jurkowitz.


The Simpsons, 8 tonight, WTVT-Ch. 13: Trust schlubby Homer Simpson to come up with a sidesplitting Halloween episode two days after the holiday ends. Still, the show's annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode shines, powered by gory, animated takes on Mad Men, a Simpson-ized version of Peanuts' Great Pumpkin story and an Election Day bit on a malfunctioning touch-screen voting machine. For Floridians, it may feel just like home.


Law & Order, 10 p.m. Wednesday, WFLA-Ch 8: Stuck with a disintegrating Wednesday night lineup, NBC made its best decision so far — bringing back its mothership crime drama early, re-energized by new blood. Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson make a wry pair as the show's new detectives, and British actor Linus Roache is masterful as the show's sharp, competitive American assistant district attorney. Best of all, the mothership avoids the schmaltzy unreality of its spinoffs, returning with an episode about a murderous street brawl and the havoc unleashed when Sam Waterston's district attorney ruthlessly bends the law to prosecute the fighters.

the list

Besides the cable news channels, online political Web sites may have benefitted most from this 22-month election cycle. According to the online usage tracking site, top political Web sites, and saw in the past year audience increases of 472 percent, 344 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Top political Web sites in September, according to comScore.,

4.5-million users., 2.3-million., 2-million., 1.1-million., 987,000.

Capitol Advantage, 959,000., 953,000., 884,000., 732,000., 636,000.

the site

Two years ago, St. Petersburg entrepreneur Frank Maggio dreamed of creating the first nationwide TV-based trivia game network, allowing viewers to play from home and earn prizes. But technology problems, the crashing economy and a fruitless fight with the Nielsen ratings company forced him to find a new dream: an online network of ad-supported trivia sites. Check out his games based on presidential questions at and

Media lessons/trends from the 22-month election cycle 11/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 4:31am]
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