As Joe Biden was being considered as a running mate for Barak Obama, reporters from all over began to camp out on a scenic road in Wilmington, that gets most of its traffic when the school down the street is in session. Driving by and taking a look at the reporters, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them, waiting for hours on end, hoping they would have a news story to report. And I felt sorry for the Bidens and the neighbors, who clearly have to deal with every move they make being watched and analyzed for any hint of a story.
I ended up bringing some cookies and brownies to them, since I knew one of the cameramen, NewMedia Jim, through Podcamp EDU and Podcamp DC. Jim is a wonderful guy, and knowing he was spending endless hours away from his family, trying to get brief shots of Joe Biden coming and going from his house seemed like a lot of time, for somewhat prosaic footage.
But this is how the news game and media game is played now. Reporters and cameramen wait, on call, at a site of possible news, hoping they have been sent to the “right” location. They have to be vigilant for any movement of people and the crowd, so they get the footage that makes their trip worth while. We need news as it happens, next day or later in the day is not good enough- we have to feed the 24 hour news machine. (And I am glad Biden was chosen, even if only to have made the camping out worth while- I feel sorry for those waiting at Senator Bayh’s house…)
What’s more interesting is how New Media also changes the game. The story is sometimes as much about the wait as it is of the event itself. The locals driving by Biden’s to check out the whole brouhaha was shown for a while live on CNN. Snippets of the possible selection were gleaned by checking websites like flightaware.com, that tell the registered flights coming and going from certain locations. Was the plane from Chicago Midway to Wilmington Friday night “the plane” that would take Biden to Springfield for the announcement? The flight that took him to Springfield was registered and showed its departure time openly on this website, but, of course, only shortly before it took off, and well after the news had been announced.
An ABC news reporter found out a secret service detail had been dispatched to Wilmington before the announcement was made, and this was reported online- while we weren’t sure if it was true, it turned out to be a pretty good predictor of the choice in advance of the breaking news.
This frenzy to get a story also meant that red herrings like printing up Obama- Bayh bumper stickers in advance, and this news leaking to the press to throw them off the scent. Yet it makes you wonder how much time and money (and even perhaps Sen. Bayh’s dashed hopes) were all involved in this process of cat and mouse, chase and deception.
News travels faster than ever before online, through Twitter, blogs, cell phones. We basically have to assume these days that you have no privacy except perhaps in your own home; that your digital footprint regarding travel, plans and almost anything else can easily be tracked by laymen, if they so choose.
The questions about what this means for safety and privacy abound. You either decide you just simply need to live your life in such a way that everything you do is honest and responsible and therefore, you are unlikely to care much what people know about you. Or, in the alternative, you have to lead a cloak and dagger kind of life, carefully monitoring everything you do and say, and ultimately, deciding not to do or say very much for fear of what could happen later on.
I worry about the way we stalk public figures, whether in entertainment or politics or public life- it’s pretty unfair, but we say they chose this life, and therefore it’s okay. But what boundaries still exist when there is an infinite number of media resources looking for the next big thing? And when do we simply start to tune out, because too much information is just that- more distracting noise, taking our attention away from things that might matter more.
I got very caught up in the local drama of whether Joe Biden would get picked as Obama’s running mate, hoping it was him, because I genuinely admire and like Joe Biden, and voted for him repeatedly when we lived in Delaware. I think he will be excellent and really help barak Obama be a great next president of the US. But I hope we all can get used to the fact that “our” town may become a little different than ever before. Our local boy is in the spotlight, and the news cycle has just begun.