October 26, 2012 / by Lauren Bigge

As Americans prepare to vote on Nov. 6, the demand for political news and transparency is high. And what better way to find quick information than from social media, which has revolutionized how journalists cover campaigns.

Just take business magnate Donald Trump’s recent offer to President Barack Obama, which he posted on Facebook and Twitter, announcing he would donate $5 million if the president would release his college and passport records. When the announcement went up, news organizations were reporting on it within the hour.

Political journalists addressed social media’s role in the 2012 election during the recent Facebook Politics Live panel with CNN’s political director, Mark Preston. According to AllFacebook, National Public Radio White House correspondent Ari Shapiro noted the significance of social media, citing the role Facebook and Twitter play by offering a platform for journalists to follow events in swing states, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see firsthand.

Meanwhile, YouTube is also playing a major role in the campaign coverage this year. The video site partnered with ABC News Digital in late summer to launch the YouTube Elections Hub. It brings media organizations like ABC News, BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times together to provide up-to-the-minute election cycle news.

Even earlier this year, the role social media has played in the election was recognized. “Social media has profoundly impacted how journalists cover the election, how campaigns spin the news cycle and how the public consumes news. Social platforms have also amplified story lines and have become a conduit for news scoops,” said Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor at The New York Times, in a mediabistro.com PRNewser release.

NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd echoes the sentiment. “Social media is a fact of this campaign’s life; it’s certainly created a larger share of ‘shiny metal object’ stories and the two campaigns actually try and feed this horrible social media beast with these types of stories,” he told inVocus in an email interview, citing the explosion of references to Big Bird. Yet it’s been beneficial in his day-to-day work. “Overall, there are good things that come from the social media advances, including, an ability to follow more campaigns at a quicker speed than ever before. Twitter is a Godsend for me when it comes to newsgathering,” he added.

Fox chief White House correspondent Ed Henry recently told Fast Company that social media complements his daily work as well. “You can get a whole lot more information through social media than you can get just through the traditional methods of picking up the newspaper,” he said.

Inquirer.net’s JV Rufino noted the transparency element social media offers. He told Social Good Summit attendees that social media has forced newsrooms to work like open kitchens. The New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza came to the same conclusion during a recent Harvard University panel: “You can know what people who are covering these campaigns are doing and thinking more than you ever could before.”

As social media evolves, it will be interesting to see how its role will have grown and changed during the next election.

–Lauren Bigge


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