We are witnessing a tipping point in American journalism in which the balance of power is tilting decisively towards new media, Financial Times editor Lionel Barber writes today.Â In particular the 2008 presidential debate - already dubbed the YouTube election - hasÂ "revolutionised the terms of political engagement", he says, as the mainstream media's imperial status has been shaken.
At the Democrat convention, hundreds of bloggers thronged a purpose-built new media centerÂ calledÂ The Big Tent - and mainstream journalists could onlyÂ go in if they registered asÂ visitors. Meanwhile, twoÂ of the race's big stories have been broken by a 61-year-old blogger for the Huffington Post, MayhillÂ Flower.Â Both of her storiesÂ exemplify the extent to which traditional journalism is being turned on its head, Barber says. For the first story, she was only present atÂ an Obama speechÂ because she's aÂ Democrat donor. Â For the second, she didn't identify herself as a reporter, or blogger, when putting a question to Bill Clinton.
Barber quoes Eric Alterman's excellent New Yorker essay: "Whereas a newspaper tends to stand by its story on the basis of an editorial process in which professional reporters and editors attempt to vet their sources and check their accuracy before publishing, the blogosphere relies on its readership - its community - for its quality control . . . Only if a post is deemed by a reader to be false, defamatory or offensive does an editor get involved."
Barber admits he finds this "alarming - not so much because it threatens to put me (and many colleagues) out of a job but because it signals a departure from an honourable tradition in which professional journalists do their best - through a process of discovery relying on multiple sources - to establish something approaching a rough historical record.
The question is whether this same journalistic rigour can survive the current maelstrom."