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Digital natives reinventing campaign coverage

Posted July 25

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— In 2012, media coverage for the conventions came from a bunch of 40-year-olds on "Radio Row." In 2016, "Radio Row" has been replaced by "Media Row" and a lot of very dominant media coverage now comes from a bunch of 25-year-olds making content by pushing the "record" button on the ubiquitous smartphones in their hands.

Case in point:

I was on CNN on Saturday talking about my new book WHITE HOUSE: CONFIDENTIAL. Five minutes after I finished my segment and walked off the set, the skies opened up with a cacophonous Raleigh-style deluge of howling wind and thunder and rain which captured everyone during the live, outdoor CNN newscast by surprise.

So what did the millennials on the CNN production team do?

Instinctively, they grabbed their phones and rapidly started snapping photos and video of the storm and the panicked reaction of the talking heads on the set; they then quickly posted the photos and videos to social media for a hungry CNN audience which wanted any glimpse of “behind-the-scenes” they could get. I’ll bet some of those social media posts of the stormed-out set were some of CNN’s most popular posts of the day.

But what about the more serious side of how millennials are changing the face of news?

My theory is that this shift in news coverage to digital media dominated by millennials is a problem for both the Clinton and the Trump campaigns; both campaigns keep making mistakes that no smart millennial would ever make:

No smart millennial would have let Hillary use her own email server
No smart millennial would have let Melania's speech go unvetted
No smart millennial would have allowed any of the leaked DNC communications to be put into a digital format.

What these three problems all have in common is a lack of understanding of the core technology at the root of the problems. Smart millennials are digital natives and fundamentally understand the pitfalls of this technology. But if you're too old to be a digital native, it's a lot easier for you to get tripped up.

It's like Watergate all over again in the sense that this generation of journalists have a completely different sense of right and wrong, and a completely different sense of how to go about using technology and understanding technology to get and understand a story. In many cases today, technology IS the story and it TAKES technology to get the story.

That's why it took a millennial to break the story of Melania's plagerism and a creation by a millennial (WikiLeaks) to create the DNC leak story. Michael S. Schmidt, the New York Times reporter who broke the story of Hillary's email server is also a millennial. In all three cases, the reporters had to UNDERSTAND technology enough to recognize a story and then USE technology to be able to uncover the story. In the case of the Melania plagiarism, the story broke over Twitter by an unemployed journalist ... another example of how digital-native journalists are reinventing the world of journalism.

Gregg Stebben is an editor at MEN’S HEALTH Magazine and the author of 17 books. His latest book is the third edition of WHITE HOUSE: CONFIDENTIAL. He lives in Raleigh and is reporting from both major political conventions for WRAL.com.

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