Monday, August 8, 2011

Mike Butler: Politics and the blogosphere

May be that information on the internet will have more influence on the outcome of this year’s election than television, radio, newspapers, election meetings, and billboards. The effect of the internet prompted the Close-Up television current affairs programme last week to discuss racist and offensive comments after a personalised plate featuring the word “Maori” was listed for sale on Trade Me.

Internet use first made a difference in the 2004 United States presidential race. The most successful campaigns relied on it to gain advantages over their competitors. Large numbers of adult Americans relied on the internet to learn about the campaigns, to help make up their minds, to help others make up theirs, and to register and vote.

The internet has a distinctive role in politics. It can be used as a raucous debating society, a research library, an instant news source, and a political comedy club. The internet connects voters to a wealth of content and commentary about politics.

United States campaigners used the internet to attract and aggregate viewers, donors, message forwarders, volunteers, and voters during the 2003-2004 year.

So how big are television, radio, and newspaper audiences? One News got 671,480 viewers, and Three News attracted 377,750 viewers, according to Throng on May 6, 2011.The weekly live cumulative audience for Radio New Zealand National is 505,000 or 15 percent of the 15+ population. National's station share is 10.2 percent, according to Nielsen. Daily newspaper readership is around 46 percent, again according to Nielsen.

The mainstream media tends to drive people towards the internet because of inadequate or slanted reporting. For instance, TV news has stopped trying to give balanced information. TV news reporters and sub-editors just don’t know how to do it.

National Radio has much more extensive news coverage, but has a big tilt to the left as a result of the biases and preconceptions of the reporters and sub-editors working there. Commercial radio news is so brief that only sound bites are possible, and the tilt is towards the biases and preconceptions of the tribe (whatever race) running the radio station.

National newspapers can have the space to delve into an issue, but runs up against the biases and preconceptions thing, as well as the naivety and ignorance of some of the sweet young things fresh out of polytech. This is especially true in provincial papers.

Election meetings today are populated by the elderly, and a candidate is often lucky to get a room full of 150, which is a far cry from the days when former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon, or former New Zealand Party leader Sir Robert Jones would pack out a town hall, standing room only, with hecklers ejected.
These are the reasons people go to the internet. Maybe this is why you are reading this.

The comments sections on internet news items and blogs have become a much more user-friendly place for people who used talkback radio. No waiting for your turn, you can write your comment in your own time, can look up information so the comment can be better-informed.

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