Debate Coverage Points to Shift

It’s a rainy day and I’m seeking refuge in a local cafe in Bennington, Vermont. Smells heavenly–thick with cocoa beans. The clientele has that rugged, outdoorsy look you’d expect from rural Vermonters. But their conversation is crisp and sophisticated. One woman strolls in with her New York Times and a group forms a hive around her buzzing. What did the Grey Lady say about the Alaskan lady’s performance last night? The woman reads aloud from the front page. Then she drifts off into a “Blah, blah, blah.”

“This is the kind of namby-pamby coverage they gave the other debate!” she crows. People mutter. From the back of the cafe an older gentleman surprises us all by shouting, “Biden kicked her ass! Did they say that…well, not in so many words?”

For my part, I watched the PBS coverage last night and witnessed a chastened David Brooks pour a warm bath of kindly remarks for Ms. Palin. I wondered if he was reversing his previous opinion that she is dangerously inexperienced.

Back to the din brewing in the cafe….

A woman with a small child pipes up telling the group that the Today Show held a mini-town hall meeting this morning with moms to hear their verdict on who won the debate.

A light bulb goes on for me. Web 2.0 is fundamentally changing the news. How? By changing the way it gets reported. Essentially, this woman’s description of the Today Show coverage tells me that news sources are going out asking the community to form judgements. Are the experts capitulating to the power of the Web by mimicking its collective commentary from average Joes and Janes?

As reporters grow ever more sheepish that if they pose tough questions and provocative points of view, they will they be benched by the candidates–if the media becomes a mere megaphone for people to tell it like it is–then what’s the role for media? Just the facts? Well, we can get facts from lots of places.

A guy walks into the cafe with his black lab. The dog lies down while his master’s espresso is being brewed. The pooch draws a heavy sigh as he plops his head onto crossed paws. I second that emotion.