‘Breaking news’ vs. the new media

Published 6:54 pm Monday, February 1, 2010

Days after the widely-covered election in Massachusetts, I sat down at my desk and opened my email box. At the top of my inbox, I saw an email from the Washington Post, the subject line titled, “BREAKING NEWS: Frustration drove Brown’s Mass. victory, poll finds.”

The article began: “Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals drove the upset election of Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, according to a new post-election survey of Massachusetts voters.”

I stared at the screen for a moment in disbelief. First, I thought to myself, is it breaking news that Americans are frustrated with Congress and the direction of our country? And second, they need a poll to tell them that?

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The email represented a growing “out-of-touch” theme we are seeing, and is perhaps the reason why many Americans are looking new places for reliable and factual news.

Throughout the course of our nation’s history, the source that Americans have looked to for news has changed. During the ratification of our Constitution, people got their news from written articles and essays, like the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

Advances in printing technology during the Industrial Revolution allowed mass production of newspapers as we know them today. Magazines and journals began to offer more niche information to consumers.

The invention of the television paved the way for evening news, and the desire for news-as-it’s-happening opened the possibility for 24-hour-news channels. News sources have evolved, sometimes based on technology, and other times based on the demands of American citizens.

Today, we are seeing a shift again. More and more Americans are demanding direct and transparent access to their government, without the filters of 24-hour-a-day news channels, newspaper editorial boards, or radio hosts. They want to receive information directly from the source, so they can form their own opinions on issues impacting our nation.

Two years ago, I started a YouTube Channel. I did it for that very reason – I wanted to provide another means for my constituents to have direct access to my work in Washington. On that channel, I post video remarks – speaking directly to the people I represent – on issues like government spending, healthcare, China and our national security. Sometimes the videos take place on the floor of the House of Representatives. Other times, they take place directly from my office. Then, I ask for feedback.

Over the past two years, it has become another tool that allows unfiltered access to what I’m working on in Congress, and it has enabled me to have more conversations with my constituents.

As a result, my YouTube channel now ranks as one of the top five most-subscribed-to and most viewed channels in Congress, according a report on the U.S. Government and YouTube by Citizen Tube.

The exciting thing about this is not that the channel has a high number of viewers. It’s the fact that YouTube is providing Americans access to their elected officials and to issues that are often not being covered by the mainstream media.

My most-watched video — Our Judeo Christian Nation — has received more than 3 million views on YouTube. Yet, it was not picked up by a single mainstream news channel, regardless of the fact it captured widespread national attention by individuals across the country.

The reality is, what is “breaking news” may differ from person to person based on what they are concerned about and what is impacting them on a day-to-day basis. As elected representatives in Washington, it is important that we become a source of information, so citizens can form their own conclusions and provide us feedback on whether they agree or not.

I want to make sure that neither you nor I are missing out on the conversations we need to be having about what is happening in Washington. You can follow what I am doing in Congress by subscribing to my YouTube channell at www.suffolknewsherald.com.youtube.com/user/RepRandyForbes. I also provide online updates from Washington throughTwitter and Facebook, and regularly post thoughts on my blog and through my email, the Capitol Monitor.

It is my strongest desire as your elected representative to not only provide information to you, but, just as importantly, to hear from you to get your ideas, thoughts and concerns. I believe that it is through communication and exchanging of ideas that we can truly move this nation forward.