VOLUME 28 NO. 4 | JANUARY 17 - JANUARY 23, 2009


Presidential media trends

Last updated 1-15-09 at 1:18 p.m.

Image by Stacy Nguyen

By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly

These days, it’s easy to take television and Internet media for granted. A poll doesn’t need to be done to determine how much daily information is gained from either reading news on MSN.com or by watching “The Daily Show.” Slowly, Americans are pulling away from traditional formats such as radio and daily newspapers and moving on to their streamlined TV and online counterparts.
Of course, these trends have been happening for quite sometime. Take, for example, John F. Kennedy’s Jan. 25 press conference in 1961: As radio died and TV became more accessible, Kennedy realized that this medium could be used to communicate to Americans in real time. On that day, he made history by holding the first televised press conference in the United States.

“Kennedy showed that all commun-ication, even presidential communication, must be relational,” wrote Roderick P. Hart and Mary Triece, who chronicled major presidential events for the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ (MBC) Encyclopedia of Television.

Kennedy’s move to television allowed average Americans to essentially be in the same room with him without having newspaper reporters or radio personalities paraphrasing the president’s words.

Similar to Kennedy’s bold move, President-elect Barack Obama was able to utilize a media tool like the Internet as a part of his campaign strategy. While McCain ran on a more traditional platform, which appealed to baby boomers and those afraid of technology, Obama had a MySpace page and created a high profile Web site in the form of Change.gov.
In embracing technology and creating an Internet persona to communicate with Americans, Obama has started to reveal himself as a capable person.

“The Obama organization continues to turn the political machine on its ear and continues to shake the conventional wisdom of ‘political strategy,’” wrote Rick Turoczy in a blog post titled “Obama’s Social Media Advantage, Act II.”
“If Change.gov is any indication, the use of social media appears to have been much more than a gimmick for Obama. It appears to have truly been a means of embracing change.”

But it should be noted that because of trailblazers like Kennedy — or even Bill Clinton and his 1992 MTV appearance in which he admitted to using marijuana — Obama’s platform isn’t necessarily doing anything particularly fresh, but is rather reinventing the wheel.

The television has largely been replaced by the Internet; rather than avoiding the medium, Obama used it accordingly and won the popular vote by creating an ubiquitous image online.

Though the Internet has been around for 15 years or so, many people view it in relation to pornography, Ebay.com, or viral videos. Obama is the first presidential candidate who fully embraced technology and used it to put himself on equal footing with the rest of the country, echoing Kennedy’s use of TV as the great equalizer in the 1960s.

If anything, it’ll be interesting to see where campaign strategies will go from here on out. (end)

Information from“Obama’s Social Media Advantage, Act II” by Rick Turoczy (ReadWriteWeb.com; Nov. 6, 2008) and “U.S. Presidents and Television” by Roderick P. Hart and Mary Triece (MBC’s Encyclopedia of Television) contributed to this report.

Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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