Election coverage in Twitter age much changed from past, media analyst says

Thursday October 18, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- Covering a presidential election has changed for the press corps.

Evidence for Howard Kurtz, former Washington Post journalist turned media analyst for CNN’s "Reliable Sources," was all around him at Hofstra University Tuesday night, as he covered the town hall-style presidential debate between former state governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

"You’re never off deadline these days in the age of the Twitterverse," Kurtz told students and reporters in meetings prior to his scheduled address Wednesday night at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"Everybody tweets during the debate. There’s a lot of use of social media and the demand to retweet with fact checks and the like. It’s an absolute sea change from 2008," Kurtz said.

He reflected on the days when a reporter could attend an event with the goal of filing a single story at the end of the day, "which now seems like a luxury," he said.

In addition to his gig with CNN, Kurtz is The Daily Beast and Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, he writes the "Spin Cycle" blog, and regularly contributes to Daily-Download.com and to his 108,000-plus Twitter followers.

He told students he filed a story on Tuesday’s debates around 10:45 p.m., and by Wednesday morning there were already more than 1,600 reader comments, the good, the bad and the senseless.

Kurtz highlighted the benefits of reporting and receiving news in a real-time era, including the exponentially broadened number of contributors, reader responses, sources and perspectives.

But the media analyst also said there is much more opinion bombarding reporters and consumers alike.

"We live in a sea of punditry now," said Kurtz.

He described the common journalist’s lament of how keeping up with social media demand can delay the process of thinking, writing and also downplay the real news at hand.

"It is probably too often that it overshadows the substance of these debates," said Kurtz.

"It’s easy to focus on Big Bird or binders of women than to slog through the details of Romney’s tax plan," he said.

He credited websites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com for fact-checking political events like Tuesday’s debate, as fairly as possible.

"In this way, there is a valuable function journalism can perform," Kurtz said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink


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