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 irrelevantGood 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 to serve different needs. This month's cover story, "How to Pick a President", is exactly the kind of essay CT is known for: a deep, provocative piece that applies Christian wisdom to current issues. It is also about 5,000 words long. Most of our print readers will finish it. Most visitors to our website won't. At the same time, the magazine contains only a fraction of our political coverage. Did you catch our interview with Obama? Our on-the-ground coverage of the Compassion Forum at Messiah College? Our explanation of James Dobson's remarks on voting? (Visit christianitytoday.com/ct/special/campaign2008.html to catch up.) Some stories don't have the long shelf life required for a monthly magazine. And we've asked, "Will this candidate be in the race by the time the issue goes out?" so many times it's become an office cliché. The magazine has focused on long-term issues, while the website has looked at the religious aspects of the campaign headlines.
Our website recently launched a feature to help us better cover the day's news stories and the deeper issues they illuminate. In keeping with Billy Graham's vision that CT offer "all that comes over the wires," we've added the CT Newsfeed, with constantly updated links to articles around the world. Some articles we note are laudable, others are disturbing. But they're all noteworthy, and help CT be the preeminent site for people who want to be informed about the church in the world.
One note: ChristianityToday.com is a corporate portal that links mostly to our sister publications. ChristianityToday.com/ct/ is where to go for our full coverage.
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