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This was supposed to be the election when online grassroots media stomped traditional mainstream outlets. Instead, the antagonistic relationship between traditional and digital media has become a symbiotic one. This has proved especially true in recent campaign religion stories.

Take, for example, the widely publicized post-9/11 comments from Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Many have credited ABC News correspondent Brian Ross with "breaking the story." But when Obama responded to the comments, he didn't reference Good Morning America. Instead, he noted that they "ended up playing on YouTube repeatedly." Television took the story to millions. YouTube took the story to millions more. The question of who broke the story was irrelevant—Good Morning America and YouTube exposed the video clip to different audiences with different media habits. And anyone interested in point scoring has to ultimately credit the "scoop" to Wright's own church: it had been offering footage of the sermon since it was preached.

Likewise, Obama's comment about small-town residents who "get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" was initially buried in a long post by an Obama supporter at HuffingtonPost.com. But mainstream media picked up the comment and turned it into a weeks-long story. In this case, the mainstream outlets needed the independent blogger (Obama made the remarks in a fundraiser closed to journalists). In most other cases, bloggers rely on the reporting of paid journalists. In both cases, intermedia competition gave way to intermedia cross-pollination.

So it is with Christianity Today's election coverage, for which our traditional print magazine and website work together ...

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June 2008

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