The impact of new media coverage during the 2012 election has shaped the way many of us were able to learn about new information during the vote-counting period. Being the first election I could vote in, and a very important one at that, I was literally on the edge of my seat (couch) as information poured in from 7pm until I fell asleep. (This was after Obama was predicted to win, for all who are interested.) Perhaps I found the coverage stunning because this was the first time I paid attention, but it was surely a sight to behold. I watched CNN, and was shocked by their ability to simply click on the counties within battleground states and see how many of the votes had been counted. While this made watching the election coverage unfold an anxiety-ridden battle for me, finding out up-to-date information was extremely helpful. CNN, and other news stations, knew how important their accurate and fast coverage was during such a big election. Surely they spent hours preparing, getting used to their new equipment, making sure they would be the ones to report first. Thankfully, viewers like myself benefitted from their preparedness, and they were able to present reliable information in a timely manner. Because of the use of so many new forms of media during this election, news networks knew they needed to be almost instantaneous in their reporting, while being accurate. Cable news networks were just one facet of the election coverage.
Similar stories were spread across the Twitter-sphere just as fast as Romney’s Big Bird quipping fiasco. Viewers were not only able to get information from the same news stations broadcasting on cable, but also from other people they follow, like celebrities and friends. For some even, friends and celebrities may have been the only source of news for the election. In this way, Twitter is proving to be equally as effective in spreading news of the election. Unlike TV broadcasting, Twitter works in an almost domino-like effect. If a friend first gets a report from a candidate’s twitter account, or a news account, the friend will then pass this along to his or her own followers. This creates a chain reaction, spreading news through follower-spheres via retweets and original posts. Someone five dominos back may be getting the news originally sent from President Obama’s twitter account, even if he or she is not following him. Even if the news originates from a cable news network, unlike their TV broadcasting, a tweet moves through a chain of dominos, ever expanding and reaches the masses much more quickly. While it may take time to text a friend and tell them the election results, simply being on Twitter or getting notifications sent to your phone is more immediate, and the audience reached is much wider than just a text message.
Facebook works in a different way. Although Facebook is constantly in flux, trying to figure out the best ways to spread information, we are still not able to see status updates from friend’s of friend’s, who we are not friends with, on our news feed. If that sounded confusing, it’s because it is. Simply watching TV is a more linear way of reaching audiences. Twitter is more complex, like a domino effect that spreads outward. Somewhere in between lies Facebook. During the election, people may have been able to see the status updates of their friends, if they were watching the election, but if no one they were friends with had news, they most likely would not see it. While Twitter allows us to see tweets from other people we aren’t following, Facebook does not display information from nonfriends on newsfeeds. Of course, this could change as I type. One helpful tool used by Facebook is the use of grouping specific topics. During the election, many people on my friend’s list were posting about Obama, so they were all grouped together. This allowed me to see news (or mostly opinion) about President Obama without having to sort through my entire news feed. Grouping is sort of like Facebook’s version of hashtagging, in a way.
Perhaps the main differences between TV news networks, Facebook, and Twitter are the level of accuracy and actual fact reporting. TV networks are generally held to higher standards for accuracy than Twitter and Facebook users, but they are capable of making mistakes. Twitter tends to have more opinion than TV networks, but less than Facebook. (At least for me.) Facebook reaches a smaller audience, but works within a more connected group of “friends.” All of our advances with new media changed the way we were able to get news about the election. Depending on your preferences, some ways are better than others. In the elections to come, I think it will be interesting to see what other new technological advances are in store. Can you think of anything you would like to see either changed or created?