Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Uneducated?

There's a very good article on the BBC website at the moment from their education correspondent, Mike Baker, discussing where education has gone from this campaign. It's well worth a read, especially as it goes beyond this point to discuss how the media makes politicians dance to its own tune.
"It is an odd spectacle when the party leader and education spokesperson spend half an hour setting out their thoughts on education only to be immediately asked about immigration or national insurance.

Yet this is exactly what happens. Of course, as a journalist, I would defend the right of the media to ask politicians about whatever issue they think is important to their readers, viewers and listeners."
I've been wondering this too, and it doesn't just happen during an election. If you examine the transcripts of any of the PM's press conferences, you'll notice how Tony Blair will talk on a subject for a few minutes and then almost none of the subsequent questions will be related to it. The first question is often completely at a tangent, and it doesn't seem to fit together very well.

The article moves on:
"One of the worst aspects of journalism is the pack mentality - it is safer to hunt together than to rove independently. If the big beasts of the journalistic jungle are going on one issue, others will follow.

So, while they might like to test out the details of... policy, they dare not miss their one chance to try to wrong-foot the politicians on an issue that has cropped up elsewhere.

I fear, and I speak as a television journalist, that this problem is largely the consequence of the daily news conferences being broadcast live on 24-hour news media. Journalists like to get their questions on the air almost as much as they want to hear the answers."
There's more, but I leave that to you to read. It is a fine summary of the mess that politics has gotten into in this country. Because the whole object of presentational style is now to take advantage of the media, it's hardly surprising that the media have responded by taking the ultra-critical line on as many things as possible. And even if it isn't critical, it will use the "if we're sceptical and cynical about everything then it will still be fair" line.

This then feeds in to how we view the politicians, and it only adds to our deep-seated suspicion of everything they do.

But then again, I do feel the media does also bear a lot of the blame. They don't need to be this harsh. I'd like it if every now and then they actually asked questions on the issue the presentation is about, just as long as it clearly isn't an attempt to divert news away from another story. As citizens, we depend almost entirely on the media to know where parties stand on the issues. They have a lot of power, and it worries me that a hell of a lot is slipping under the radar that will be important to millions of voters. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to see education as the top priority of all parties, but it's not getting the headlines.

The media is unaccountable. They should always remember that. They like to think they're doing an important job by scrutinising the elected politicians, but there are many tens of thousands of people out there who could do the job just as well and may even bring a different light to the story. But since we can't do that, they need to show a bit of humility. They've got to use their power wisely. It's OK for them... they can stir shit endlessly but if anyone ever pulls them up on it they have the retort, "I ask the questions!"

Makes you wonder. Just how much of this campaign is actually being dictated by the media? Who's to say the politicians are in control of anything?

2 Comments:

At 9:17 pm, April 16, 2005, Blogger CuriousHamster said...

Interesting post. I'd agree that reporters can be too confrontational at times, and that they often pursue their own (or their editors/owners) agendas.
I'd still say the politicians, and especially the government, can maintain a degree of control by using their power to restrict access to key figures. Blair won't often be seen on a programme like Newsnight, for example. He'll do Richard and Judy no problem though.

 
At 9:46 am, April 18, 2005, Blogger Eddie said...

I think that's a reflection of just how bad the situation has become. Blair knows that the journalists like to set traps for him, so he's reacting by avoiding the confrontation as much as possible. And where could it be safer than to chat to Richard and Judy about sending flowers to his wife?

 

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