Finding a Net Angle in New Hampshire

SAN FRANCISCO (02/03/2000) - In morning-after coverage of the New Hampshire primary, the cyber-savvy campaign of Republican victor John McCain came under scrutiny, as did the media's own use of the Net in covering the Granite State's doings. It turns out that readers, like the electorate of which they are a part, aren't always the winners.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the McCain campaign rakes in $10,000 a day via the Internet. Now, the Journal's Glenn Simpson reported, the Arizona senator "is pinning his hopes for financial salvation" on a combination of advance planning and some slick use of the cyber medium. McCain is banking on the Net's accelerated contacts to help him stay viable against George W. Bush, who has, according to the Journal's tally, $32.7 million in cash on hand.

McCain has a piddly $1.5 mil.

Who are the brains behind McCain's online effort? In California, at least, one of the brains is a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of California at Davis, according to Wired News. In between classes, Evan Adams logs in for six hours a day to maintain the 12 Web pages.

But McCain has been a little too bullish on the Net to suit Slate's Timothy Noah. Noah argued that McCain wields his pledge to permanently ban Net taxes as a Bush-bashing club - and that Bush's stance is the one that makes more sense.

George W. prefers a 10-year moratorium on Net taxes, Noah wrote. Sure, that conveniently coincides with the end of a prospective second Bush term, but Noah also finds it a more reasonable position, given e-commerce's embryonic state.

As for the media's own use of the Net during the primary, print dailies like the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune crammed their Web coverage with video and audio clips. Slate posted the results of Granite State exit polls and then gloated that the pledge by other news outlets not to do so "is based on the idiotic and condescending notion that only members of the media can be trusted with this precious information."

Boston Globe media critic Mark Jurkowitz pegged this "the synergy election" and named NBC - along with subsets MSNBC and CNBC - as the winner. He also noted that NBC is facing the challenges of life as an information conglomerate.

MSNBC's Brian Williams admitted to Jurkowitz that ''one downside of the explosion of outlets'' is a change in reporting standards. ''I don't think we're going through the longstanding confirmation process of the sourcing of stories," Jurkowitz quoted Williams as saying. So McCain, Gore and NBC may be the winners this morning, but readers end up on the losing end.

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