Thursday, 6 May 2010

Election Blog: A Bad Campaign for Traditional Print Media

Well, it may not have been the Twitter and Blog election we were promised, but I do think we can draw some conclusions about the performance of our traditional media over the last four weeks. For the purpose of this blog, I am lumping the dailies in with their weekend counterparts.

Some individuals have done well. Jonathan Freedland has offered real insight in the Guardian whilst covering the campaigns on the ground, whilst Jackie Ashley and Martin Kettle have provided solid guides to Labour thinking, constitutional questions etc. Steve Richards in the Independent has offered a very good window into the Brown Camp and the PM’s individual thoughts whilst Simon Heffer in the Telegraph offered some excellent commentary on the Tory campaign and what Cameron could and should do next.

The Times, I am afraid has been poor. Election news reporting has been average but the commentary has been lame. The loss of Simon Jenkins to the Guardian, the disappearance of Alice Miles and the increasingly sporadic appearances of Anatole Kaletsky has left them bereft of any real stars, which must be an issue for the paper with paywalls just around the corner.

Commentator of the campaign though goes to David Yelland, the ex-Sun editor (pictured above). He only wrote once, but gave an astonishing insight into the Murdoch empire and how much a Cameron win means to them.

Overall however this has been a bad campaign for traditional media and I offer as evidence three key moments.

Firstly, Rebekah Brooks, nee Wade, and James Murdoch storming into Rod Liddle's offices to complain about the Independent's front page headline, "Rupert Murdoch Won't Decide This Election. You will" an account of which can be read HERE. As Michael White in the Guardian put it, "that's pretty uncool" and shows the extent to which many newspapers have been rattled by Cleggmania.

Secondly, the April 22nd campaign to discredit Clegg with Nazi slurs and bogus fraud claims. My own view is that the Telegraph, Express and Mail made fools of themselves with what looks like a last baying of a dying beast. Most interestingly, the public chose to ignor it with no discernible effect on the opinion polls.

Finally, the digital reaction to the Clegg onslaught at #nickcleggsfault on Twitter which instantly rocketed to the top of the Twitter rankings. My favourite was, “Kennedy assassination: new footage confirms gunman on grassy knoll was Nick Clegg.” I’ve heard the traditional media questioned before and often accused of bias, but never publicly ridiculed.

My media man of the election though is James Cook of the BBC, whom I met when he came to Worcester Bosch a few weeks ago, following the Prime Minister around on his Battle Bus. Not only did James give me some valuable insight into how Alex Salmond and the SNP are perceived in Scotland, but he also told me that he didn’t expect to sleep in his own bed until sometime on May 7th. Now that is above and beyond the call of duty!


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