Kurtz: “Does the campaign trail still matter much in an age of digital warfare?”

From today’s Washington Post:

    Does the campaign trail still matter much in an age of digital warfare? Or is it now a mere sideshow, meant to provide the media with pretty pictures of colorful crowds while the guts of the contest unfold elsewhere? And if so, are the boys (and girls) on the bus spinning their wheels?

    “Anything interesting that happens on the road is going to be eaten up before you can get to it,” says Slate correspondent John Dickerson. “By the time you see the papers, you feel like you know it all.”

    On the road, some of the nation’s top print journalists morph into bloggers who post paragraphs on each mini-development, giving them a more stenographic role that leaves less time for actual reporting, or even thinking. Obama advisers have concluded that newspaper and magazine stories no longer have the same resonance but that a brief item by, say, Politico bloggers can spread like wildfire.

    With a single correspondent’s campaign travel costing as much as $10,000 a week, the number of cash-strapped news organizations willing to pony up has been dwindling in recent years. Only five newspapers — the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — are traveling regularly with Obama and John McCain. The big regional papers, USA Today and Time magazine are there only intermittently, and Newsweek, which had been a constant presence on the trail, pulled back last week for financial reasons. (The networks, which used young off-air “embeds” during much of the primary season, now have front-line correspondents on board to do daily live shots.)