As the White House intern scandal demonstrates, the Internet and other new media have accelerated the pace of news gathering and dissemination with damaging side effects, according to a Brigham Young University professor.
"The deadline clock is now ticking 24 hours a day for news delivery - journalists and their audiences may be harmed," says Richard Davis, coauthor of the forthcoming book "New Media and American Politics" from Oxford University Press."Journalists are facing a greatly accelerated process, and as a result, we end up with a product that is more hasty and less reliable."
Davis notes that the latest presidential flare-up broke on the World Wide Web and was fanned by talk-show banter, evidence of the new media's emerging influence on American politics.
Davis and coauthor Diana Owen of Georgetown University define the new media as TV and radio talk shows, tabloids that cover politics, TV news magazines and the Internet. Their book studies the evolution of those forums as political information sources.
In addition to theories bandied about in cyberspace, ideas promoted on the talk-show circuit have more influence today, Davis says.
"Journalists now cover talk radio to gauge public mood, which is a fallacy because callers are not necessarily representative of the general public," he says.
Davis points out that talk shows can, in rare cases, influence policy shifts.
But Davis refutes the notion that the new media have brought with them a form of populism or more direct democracy.
"Talk-radio hosts are not activists; they are entertainers out to increase audiences and ad revenue," he says.