Politico’s Allen: ‘The Challenge is Breaking Through the White Noise’

A still from yesterday's event. From left: Mike Allen, Karen Hughes, Don Baer, and Pat Mitchell

During the Paley Center for Media’s International Council forum on digital media and politics in New York on Wednesday, Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico, discussed the current explosion of media coverage.

“Now there is no place that everyone automatically goes for news. In the new world, all media outlets face the nightclub conundrum – when they’re hot, everyone goes there. Politico needs to make sure we don’t end up like Studio 54,” he said.

The panel was moderated by Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media, and the other panelists included Don Baer and Karen Hughes, both worldwide vice chairs at Burson-Marsteller and former presidential communications advisers, for Clinton and Bush respectively.

Baer offered a historical perspective. “Technology and media issues are front and center. The media now serve more as gatekeepers than they did during the Clinton administration. Then politicians could go over the heads of the media, but not now.”

Allen described how the White House media coverage has changed under Obama. He said that for some news, the White House just posts the information on their blog instead of talking to reporters. And sometimes the White House photographer is the only one taking photos, which are then posted on a Flickr feed, instead of having formal media photo shoots.

Allen credited Obama’s campaign with other advances in the use of digital media. He said, “Obama harnessed online fundraising in small amounts and collected supporters’ text message addresses as a requirement to enter some campaign events. In one instance, everyone’s devices went off at once.”

Hughes provided updates based on Republican candidates’ engagement with digital media in the recent midterm elections. She said, “Some Republican candidates used digital media to avoid traditional media such as editorial board endorsements. Grassroots conservative candidates have become skeptical of traditional media.” She also reported that recent surveys conducted by Republicans have shown widespread use of Facebook and Twitter by Republican candidates.

Baer noted, “The balance of power has shifted after the midterm elections.” He predicted that there will be “less oversight and regulation of the media industry” moving forward.