Friday, January 26, 2007

The other OpinionMakers

The other day I heard an interesting discussion between APF pundit Sam Seder and Markos Moulitsas of the DailyKOs. They were talking about Opinion Makers and pundits but were not referring to anyone in the APF (nor anyone I would consider eligible for the federation). They spoke negatively of the Washington press and pundit class pointing out how wrong they've been, mentioning names like David Broder and Jim VandeHei.

I would often read in the blogosphere and listen to pundits like Rush Limbaugh bemoan and dismiss the 'elite media' for being wrong. I always wondered why there was a separation between the pundits, in my mind they were all the same. They were people providing opinions based on their expertise, though some did consider themselves more populist than others.

The feeling of populism comes from being a part of the New Media. Pundits who use outlets like talk Radio, blogs and Video journals are able to communicate directly to their audience. The 'elite' pundits would write columns for the National papers (think Washington Post and NY Times), they appear on the Sunday talk shows and nightly news.

However I wouldn't say those in the New Media were more accurate than the other pundits. The fluidness of daily talk radio and blogs just allows incremental shifts of opinion to suit new events. The audience's more intimate connection with the Opinion Maker also makes them more forgiving when their favourite pundit gets it wrong.

To beat a dead horse, I will be characterising the differences between pundits using the wrestling analogy. There are two types of wrestlers:

a) The 'respected' kind. Admired usually in their own circles and in their own minds. The type of wrestlers we see in Colleges and in the Olympics, the more modest and respectable outlets. They are more interested in the technical side of wrestling. They do not trade off their personality to win favour with the audience.
The respected pundits, usually referred to as the 'elites' will appear on respectable shows like 'Meet the Press' and 'Face the Nation'.

b)The 'Populist' kind. Usually dismissed by the elite because they are more focused on showmanship and personality and less on actual wrestling ability. They are still accomplished wrestlers nonetheless, referred to now as "Sports Entertainers". The reality is this type of wrestling reaches the larger audience, even those who don't usually pay attention to wrestling. Its the best way to make a name for yourself, to inject yourself into the mainstream and the population's psyche. It also gives you a better chance of earning a lot of money.
The populist pundits are known for their entertainment value coupled with informational analysis. Their appeal as entertainers allows them to access other more mainstream avenues outside of the political/news circuit (think Letterman, Dancing with the Stars, The View). It means that they can slide into other outlets such as books, radio and TV.

The same dynamic between technical wrestlers and professional wrestlers appears between technical pundits (old media) and populist pundits (new media). The Populist/New Media type pundit will be the kind you'll see representing the APF.

Listen to the discussion between Sam and Markos

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