The best newspapers surprise as well as inform. The New York Times performed both duties Sunday when a prominent article questioned the role highly acclaimed “Washington pundits” play in forming public opinion.
Adam Nagourney asked whether the nation’s leading columnists, many of whom work for the New York Times, have they been supplanted as influencers by those who tweet, blog and podcast.
Nagourney examined the public’s response to President Obama’s speech on the Gulf oil spill. Even though pundits declared the speech a failure, President Obama’s approval rating barely nudged.
“Tracking influences on public opinion has become greatly complicated now that the once-exclusive club (of pundits) has been joined by the vast multitudes blogging or posting Twitter updates or otherwise opining online,” Nagourney wrote.
He pointed out that those who tweet initiate opinion and analysis during an event such as the president’s speech. Waiting for the entire event to conclude before rendering an opinion ignores the power of the real-time tweet.
“Elite opinion still matters, but the Beltway chattering class no longer has a monopoly on influencing public opinion,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told Nagourney. “On any given day, a blogger, a local reporter or someone on Faceboook or Twitter can be as influential.”
Of course, plenty of bloggers and tweeters respond to columns the “pundits” produce, as well. Even as their influence is subsumed in the social media world, pundits help drive the nation’s commentary agenda.
So, does this mean the “pundits” who write for the New York Times, Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal have they lost their penache? Or are they simply fanning the flames in a different forum?