Panel discusses new media in light of presidential race

With Sen. Ted Cruz’s announcement that he will run for president, the 2016 presidential race is beginning. There’s one thing that will be consistent across all campaigns Democrat or Republican: technology.

A panel — titled “How Can Journalism, Civic Tech Hack Politics in 2016?” — at SXSW discussed how tech will influence the 2016 election. Moderating the discussion was Jennifer Preston, the vice president of journalism at the Knight Foundation.

Panelists included Emily Ramshaw, editor of The Texas Tribune; Ruby Cramer, Buzzfeed political reporter; Andrew Rasiej, co-founder of Personal Democracy Media; and Seth Flaxman, co-founder of Democracyworks.

Cramer, who has been covering Hillary Clinton, said that it is difficult covering modern campaigns.

“(Presidential) campaigns … are becoming their own media companies,” Cramer said.

To combat the sheer increase in size of campaigns, Cramer suggested that reporters have to find non-traditional ways of covering the campaigns.

At The Texas Tribune, Ramshaw said they cover campaigns three ways: around-the-clock coverage, data and hosting events.

To get this content out, news organizations must be mobile first, particularly on social media, because that’s where people get their information, Ramshaw said.

A member from the audience asked the panel how can tech engage minority populations that are not currently engaged in the political process.

“Telling stories in a less wonky way,” Ramshaw said is the one way to reach out to underrepresented people.

Buzzfeed is one example of a news company taking this approach.

“Our news side is geared towards creating stories people want to share,” Cramer said.

At one point during the panel Rasiej asked the audience if they thought the United States’ democracy is working. Three raised their hands.

“If we want to fix our democracy … it might be how we to talk to each other in our democracies,” Rasiej said.

Rasiej continued to say that the way presidential debates are structure must change to expose the country to a third party candidate. He also said that instant fact checking is important for future elections.

“Candidates make claims that aren’t true all the time,” he said.

While campaigns will be using technology, Flaxman thinks that politicians have to understand technology to be effective in office.

“I could never identify with a politician (who couldn’t use tech),” Flaxman said.