Blogs, online video has big impact on MO elections

Hot Senate race was particularly impacted by bloggers, who are already breaking stories about the 2008 campaign.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that many of Missouri's biggest stories were broke by blogs and websites, not the state's newspapers.

Newspapers statewide were scooped by a Democratic-leaning website, firedupmissouri.com, which first disclosed the details of Gov. Matt Blunt's proposal to sell off the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

And Pubdef.net, a St. Louis Web blog, first reported U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's closed-door assertion to fellow Democrats that President George W. Bush "let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black."

And candidates are worried about the impact of blogs and the difficulty of tracking a whole new media.

One blog - The Source - produced the first accounts of contributions that Attorney General Jay Nixon — a Democrat running for governor in 2008 — received from Democratic groups.

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, says Missouri politicians must accept the fact that activities or comments that once were ignored could now end up as fodder for the Internet for all the world to see.

"If you thought you didn't have any privacy before, you really don't have privacy now,'' Robertson said.

Republican blogger John Combest noted that with blogs there's not such thing as off the record.

That's not necessarily a good thing, said St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren. "The stuff on these blog sites is usually extremely partisan, extremely irresponsible and often simply not true,'' said Warren, who has been subject to blog attacks. "I don't much like them, because I don't have the time to separate the 'gold' from the 'garbage.'"

Most importantly, YouTube and blogs played a key role in the Senate race between McCaskill and Republican incumbent Jim Talent.

McCaskill, in particular, was hurt and helped the most by the power of the Web. She's among those who credits the Internet — especially YouTube — with aiding her victory over the Republican incumbent, Jim Talent.

But early last fall, the Web almost sank her chances when blogs around the country picked up Pubdef's account of her comment about New Orleans. Her statement generated a lot of national criticism, and McCaskill ended up apologizing on national TV.

But that furor was soon eclipsed by the attention over a pro-McCaskill ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox, which sparked a national debate and forced Talent to run his own ad explaining his opposition to some types of embryonic stem cell research. YouTube was the first to air the ad.

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