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August 10 2010

15:35

‘I was so exhausted I almost walked away’: Nick Robinson talks about the election

BBC political editor Nick Robinson has admitted he was close to “walking away” from Downing Street before announcing David Cameron as the new Prime Minister because of exhaustion.

Speaking in an interview with BBC College of Journalism, Robinson shares some of the challenges he faced covering the election.

At the end of the five days there was just the sense of total exhaustion. I had planned really to go to bed after staying up for 24 hours on air after polling day closed and suddenly discovered I couldn’t because of all the ups and downs (…)

When it finally came to Gordon Brown leaving Downing Street I remember being so cold and so tired that I actually said to Laura Kuenssberg, ‘you do it’ and she looked at me as if I was completely mad. I was so exhausted that I briefly thought of walking away. But it was a great story to do.

Robinson also discusses how he dealt with surprising exit polls live on air and how he wants to encourage more debate via his blog but first needs to tackle “abusive” comments.

See the full interview here…Similar Posts:



June 30 2010

07:54

May 07 2010

14:42

#ge2010: Times experiments with news and polls tracker

As part of its election coverage the Times attempted to chart the relationship between the news agenda, represented by Times reports and articles, and the political parties’ perfomances in the polls.

It looks like this:

And works like this:

Each bubble in the above graph is a news story. Its size reflects the number of comments it received on our site, and its position (on the y axis) indicates the number of recommendations the story received. (The basic idea here is that, the higher and larger the bubble, the more ‘important’ the news story, assuming that larger, more important stories tend to get commented on and recommended more.) Colours show to which party a story relates. The lines show (depending on the tab) either Populus polling results, or the number of seats the parties were predicted to win during the campaign based on Ladbrokes odds, which are used elsewhere on the site.

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11:55

#ge2010: Election Night review – a night of TV drama starting in Northern Ireland

Broadcast journalism lecturer at Coventry University John Mair reviews last night’s election coverage from the BBC from his post in the broadcaster’s Northern Ireland election newsroom:

Lunchtime Friday and still no clear answer. The British people have spoken but in a divided way. The politicians are wriggling to get advantage or cling on to power (you decide). The most exciting election campaign of modern times has been followed by the most exciting night of election drama of modern times.

Nowhere was the drama greater than here in Northern Ireland where I was working on election night – the other election, often ignored by those ‘across the water’. First casualty, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson whose 31-year stint as MP for East Belfast ended in stunning defeat by a woman of the centre – Naomi Long of the Alliance Party. Robinson has had an annus horibbulis having to face television investigations announcing his wife’s affair and, after that, his own land dealings came under scrutiny. Last night was his nadir. He rushed to the count at Newtonards Leisure Centre, spoke briefly to the local media and was then ushered out. Now he has gone to ground to lick his wounds and fend off predators.

The Robinson moment was magic telly: milked by the local outputs, but less so by the networks. They wanted more of Lady Sylvia Hermon, who defected from the Unionists when they joined with the UK Conservatives. The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) were seen off in what should have been their heartland North Antrim by Ian Paisley Jnr – brands are as important in politics as anywhere else. He and father – who preceded him in the seat for 40 years – showed their contempt for the TUV by singing the national anthem before his victory speech. Worse for ‘moderate’ Unionism, Sir Reg Empey lost out in South Antrim to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The planned Tory beachhead in Northern Ireland became a washout. It was a media confection.

The BBC Northern Ireland Election programme ran for seven-plus hours using all the 18 counts at eight locations as their prime material. Down-the-line interviews galore at the outside broadcasts based on deep local knowledge. The local commercial station – Ulster Television – did not even make it to the starting line. No election news between 10:30pm and 09.30am. That did not go unnoted by fellow hacks.

The BBC’s ‘Dimbleby programme’ had a magnificent set on its side and some pretty special Jeremy Vine virtual reality graphics too – my favourites being the Downing Street staircase or the House of Commons with real faces smiling and nodding. Modern Television journalism is about entertainment and keeping it simple. Nowhere more so than in the use of electronic graphics. All of that plus live reporting from many of the big beasts of telly journalism. It’s fascinating to see how many of them still used the basic journalistic skills, like Kirsty Wark doorstepping/walking besides and interviewing Nick Clegg on the hoof on the way to his count.

It’s difficult from inside my bubble to know how the drama played out in the nations. It certainly kept us rapt in this television control room. You could not have written the script. But the 2010 General Election story has not yet reached its final chapter. Plenty more drama to come…

Read John Mair’s report from the BBC’s TV ‘hub’ in Belfast on the build-up to election night.

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10:55

#ge2010 poll: Who were the best tweeters, journalists and bloggers?

Forget about the politicians and their wives, which journalist has done it for you during the general election? In this completely unofficial set of polls, let us know whose coverage you’ve enjoyed the most. If you’ve got notable mentions to add, drop us a line [judith at journalism.co.uk], tweet [@journalismnews] or comment below. Nominations were compiled using our readers’ suggestions – but add your own to the poll too!

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May 06 2010

13:53

#ge2010: How to follow election day online

As live events go, election night has to be one of the biggest opportunities for journalists and news organisations to get tweeting, liveblogging, mapping and more. Here’s our guide to the best online coverage of election day and plans for tonight’s results, as we look at what journalists’ can learn for future live events and how readers (and voters) are being kept informed:

Produced in associated with Channel 4 and the New Statesman, Guardian.co.uk’s election coverage features a map plotting voter turnout. It’s reliant on people tweeting when they’ve voted with the first half of their postcode and the #ukvote hashtag, but gives a good real-time picture of where the votes are coming in from.

The goal of the experiment is to inspire more people to vote and to help get a sense of turnout during the course of the day and across the country. Channel 4 News is also trying to gauge turnout using a poll as part of its election day liveblog, which dominates its homepage today.

The Guardian has also changed the layout of its homepage to incorporate more election coverage – particularly like the way it highlights the latest updates from its election day liveblog as part of the top stories box.

Ahead of tonight’s results the Telegraph has a handy guide to when constituencies will be declaring and which party is targeting which seats.

The BBC has its live page up and ready for tonight and is promising to use all its multimedia resources to boost its online coverage, with a liveblog of the results for those following online and on mobile and streams of the best radio and TV footage from the BBC via the website. Particularly nice is the slideshow of how to vote – the practicalities not which party to vote for and the option to download an election night party pack.

As part of extensive election night coverage online, Sky News has a handy, hour-by-hour guide of what happens on election day and has Facebook chat around the election added to its liveblog, so users can post status updates from the Sky site.

The Financial Times is hosting an election special on its Westminster blog for election day; while the Times’ group blog Election ‘10 is worth a mention for today’s blow-by-blow coverage and its offering of analysis, news and commentary throughout the election campaigns, balancing live and need-to-know with deeper commentary.

The Liverpool Daily Post has an excellent election section and its election map that will show the results for its local seats as they come in is a great feature. This set-up is being used by other Trinity Mirror titles too, including the Birmingham Post and Mail titles, which have also adopted the group blog Party Central for local politicians set up by the Liverpool Post & Echo:

The hyperlocal election:

We’ve written about the opportunities for hyperlocal, independent news sites in covering the general election and its seems tonight will be no exception. Expect liveblogs – Sunderland blog SR2 Blog is hoping to be one of the first sites to report a results, while Blog Preston has recruited student bloggers for the task; and live tweeting – new site for Manchester Inside the M60 will be tweeting the results live and posting them to the site as soon as they come in. Let us know if you’re planning something special for tonight or trying out some live reporting for the first time in the comments below.

Non-news sites:

Tweetminster gives an unrivalled view of tweeting going on during election day, filtering tweets from politicians and prospective parliamentary candidates, as well as mapping voter turnout by tweet and trending topics.

Facebook has set up a live vote count showing how many Facebook users have said they’ve voted, as well as pulling in news updates from external sites and polling users on its Democracy UK page.


And finally, if just for fun, a picture of how tweeters are aligned by party from @jaygooby.

If you’re a journalist, blogger or just an interested party let us know how you’re reporting and following election night as it happens.

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12:41

#ge2010: Inside the biggest night in broadcasting

It’s quiet now. You can hear a pin drop. In twelve hours’ time it will be organised chaos. I am at the BBC TV ‘hub’ in Belfast getting ready for the biggest night not just of politicians’ lives but broadcasters’ too. Tonight is general election result night and we’ll be live on BBC One and Two for hours on end bringing predictions, results and analysis to British people and many further afield.

In my bit of the hub, I handle all the material going ‘across the water’ from here to the David Dimbleby programme in Television Centre London. BBC Northern Ireland is at all of the eighteen counts at eight counting centres throughout the province, bringing breaking results, analysis, and interviews with the movers and shakers. I will be constantly offering material to the central hub in London, which they will accept, reject or just plain ignore. At busy periods they could probably fill four TV channels with election results coming in.

This is the BBC at its journalistic and technical best. Hundreds of hacks working on getting the results, processing them and analysing the team in London. Nothing can go wrong on the night. Little is left to chance. Rehearsals have been taking place for the better part of the last week. All systems tested, none found wanting-so far. From my desk I can talk to sixteen different locations/units to see what’s happening.

In front of me will be sitting the BBC Northern Ireland hub producer. They’re going out live too from 10.00pm until the last result here, probably around six hours later. We’ll share their fruits with the rest of the nations when we can. To my left will be the RTE hub producer from Southern Ireland. They’re going big on this election with a Belfast and a London Studio and a big outside broadcast to boot.

This is my eighth British general election with the BBC and it still gets the adrenalin going after 30 years.

After it’s over – tomorrow afternoon by best reckoning – it is time for the post mortem and the analysis of what went right what went wrong. To that end, I’ll be producing an event for the Media Society next Tuesday at the University of Westminster entitled Who Won the TV Election? (more details at www.themediasociety.com or below).

Enjoy tonight’s coverage on TV, and come along next tuesday to praise or blame the great men and women who put on this quinquennial spectacle. Rocket science it may not be, but at times it isn’t far off.

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11:01

#ge2010 Who do you think were the journalism winners?

You could be forgiven for forgetting who was at the centre of this general election campaign.

As blogger Max Atkinson noted, the BBC 10 o’clock news ran a seven and a half minute report on Monday’s Citizens UK event, with 22 seconds from each of the leaders’ speeches; and 123 seconds of political editor Nick Robinson. Private Eye reported in its latest issue that one onlooker wasn’t sure which Nick was going to make the speech during one part of the Lib Dem election trail.

And of course, the thought that it might not be Us Wot Won It has sent newspaper journalists and bosses into election influence overdrive: storming newspaper offices and frontpage scaremongering like crazy.

So, forget about the politicians and their wives, which journalist has done it for you during the general election coverage?

Tomorrow morning we’ll be running a few polls to establish just that. But first we need some nominations. Here are the categories:

  • Best political journalist
  • Best political blogger
  • Best political tweeter
  • Most sycophantic political coverage
  • Biggest election blunder (journalistic!)

Please comment below, or send nominations by tweet (@journalismnews) or email: judith [at] journalism.co.uk. NB: Category suggestions also welcomed.

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May 05 2010

14:44

Vicious fights and low stakes: the difficulties of covering a student election

Henry Kissinger once remarked: “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” It is a quote regularly bandied about in the midst of student union elections, which can be bitter. Dirty politics rears its ugly head in university and college election campaigns as often as it does in mainstream politics.

We in the student media are part of the same game. The hunger for news stories which will excite our readers means that controversy created by fall-outs between candidates is often a gift. The concentration on personality involved in a student election is just the same as we have seen during this general election. We are just as likely to publicise the vicious side of a campaign in order to extract exciting stories from a game with stakes as low as Kissinger believed them to be. But is the role of a student journalist the same as those covering and commenting on parliamentary and council elections, or do student publications have different responsibilities? Similarly, is the level of responsibility that comes with unregulated student media something that should be given to student journalists?

Most university campuses in Britain are served by no more than two student newspapers, meaning that we are faced with a lack of plurality. There is very seldom the equivalent of the range of political sympathy we have across the national press. If a student paper decides to show bias towards a candidate in a student election, the effect on the electorate can be significant. Taking sides in this respect can stifle discussion and debate, giving one candidate an unfair advantage.

Student media should be careful to ensure that bias does not suppress fair coverage and debate in these elections. Student politicians standing for office deserve to have their policies scrutinised and should be open to criticism and comment from the press. It is undesirable for the student press to run campaigns similar to those we see in the tabloids, backing one party and smearing others. The media plays an important role in questioning all elected representatives and holding them to account – a key part of the democratic process.

The emphasis should be on balance. It is important for democracy that student voters are given the opportunity to read news about candidates and are given the opportunity to question them. Journalists should be allowed to scrutinise and where appropriate query policy. However, personal attacks are a hindrance to fair elections, they damage the reputation of student journalism and undermine its function.

A number of student newspapers are constitutionally bound to provide fair and accurate coverage by the students’ unions that fund them. Where these unions do have control over the paper constitutionally, they can refuse to allow the papers to be distributed on their premises.

In a recent case at Edinburgh Napier university, copies of Napier Students’ Association funded Veritas were removed from campus because they were deemed to give one candidate in the elections there an unfair advantage over another. This came only days after Edinburgh-wide student newspaper the Journal was almost removed from university buildings because of an article reporting on a motion of no-confidence in the NSA President, who was standing for re-election at the time. The decision was taken by the Association’s election committee, apparently to ensure that no bias towards one candidate was communicated to the electorate. This was an example of ‘impartiality’ becoming an obstacle – the offending article in this case did not take sides and was a standard news report. Students’ right to know the news and issues surrounding the election of their representatives was curtailed.

Student politics often suffers from a lack of engagement. During my involvement in student media, I have seen editors strive to provide the most engaging coverage of student elections, often with little response. However, student media coverage of the political process at universities is one of the ways in which the electorate are given an opportunity to connect with the system beyond the often-cliquey doors of students’ union buildings. Where reporting is responsible and legal, it should not be subject to filtering from bureaucrats who think it may be damaging.

If the students’ unions themselves are to mediate in these cases, it is essential that criticism and questioning of candidates and representatives is allowed. Most adhere to this and would only intervene in the event of a serious breach, but the existence of an independent arbitrator would also be of benefit for disputes between newspapers and unions.

The Press Complaints Commission or the National Union of Students could issue guidelines on reporting and deal with complaints before drastic measures like removing copies of a publication are taken. This would create a set of rules to be followed and give both sides a port of call when things go wrong. Student journalism would have an increased sense of responsibility and reporting would better serve the electorate, helping to curb the kind of vicious campaigning to which Kissinger refers.

Nick Eardley is deputy editor of Edinburgh University student newspaper the Journal.

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May 04 2010

10:41

Independent journalist attacked while investigating voting fraud

A journalist investigating voting fraud in the UK was attacked yesterday while on a reporting job.

Jerome Taylor was repeatedly punched and kick by the group of attackers, who approached him in Bow, east London, where Taylor was looking to speak to a local election candidate about allegations of postal vote fraud.

He describes the ordeal in an article on Independent.co.uk today:

I don’t know how long it lasted – it was probably only a minute – but it was a long minute. I don’t remember them saying anything as they did it. The first noise I was aware of was the beeping of a car horn and a woman screaming.

The noise brought a man out of a nearby block of flats. With little regard for his own safety he waded in and defended me until my attackers ran away.

Full story at this link…

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April 16 2010

10:35

Will the leader’s election debates engage first time voters?

Elizabeth Davies is a freelance journalist and recent graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She reviews the first of the Leaders’ Debates and asks: can the format engage young, first time voters? This post is also featured on her blog.

The BBC grandiosely declared Thursday 15 May to be “the day the skies went quiet”. It was not, unfortunately, because the entire population was glued to ITV’s broadcast of the first of the Leaders’ Debates. It was because a great plume of plane-endangering volcanic ash was infiltrating our airspace, just at a time when news organisations were doing their best to provide audiences with nothing but wall-to-wall debate ‘preview’ pieces.

I was not glued to my television, but only because I don’t have one. Like a significant fraction of the population – a fraction dominated by young first-time voters like myself – I chose to watch the debate online. Unfortunately the quality of ITV’s live stream made it difficult to remain captivated for long. It’s one thing to engage with social media to encourage meaningful online discussion, but quite another to slap so many cursory widgets on the page that no-one is able to load anything.

I’m not a great case study for a first-time voter, merely because I am such a political geek that I watched all of the US presidential primary debates live online back in those days before anyone had heard of Sarah Palin. That does, however, make me something of an expert in pre-election debates.

Last month, following BBC Three’s First Time Voters’ Question Time, I suggested that the Leaders’ Debates were the kind of media spectacle needed to engage young voters in the political process. On that front, ITV failed spectacularly.

Alastair Stewart was a poor choice of moderator, too little known among the country’s young voters to really fire them up. The studio, along with David Cameron, looked like it would drag us back to the 1980s, and the directing suggested one of the cameramen was frequently having a kind of spasm.

Those visual things matter, superficial as they are, because they make the difference in the split second that someone decides to check out what’s happening rather than flicking over to a Friends re-run. That difference is particularly pronounced when you’re trying to engage those who’ve never had the opportunity to vote before; those who are registered in record low numbers and who might proudly attest to not being interested in politics because it’s boring.

Aside from the lack of glamour, the format was a failure. The questions selected for the debate were insipid, formulaic and, frankly, boring. David Cameron told ITN that he worried the debates would be “slow and sluggish”. Never one to fail to deliver on a promise, Cameron himself ensured the debate was both slow and sluggish by displaying almost no personality whatsoever. Gordon Brown performed much better than I expected, but Ipsos Mori’s ‘worm’ showed dial groups just don’t warm to what he’s saying.

It was Nick Clegg’s debate, and the snap polls seem to back that up. He came across largely as a normal human being – impassioned, but not in a fake politician-type way, and as someone whose own frustrations with the current political situation reflected those of the electorate. It is plausible that a significant number of voters who claimed previously to be “undecided” will now be telling the pollsters they’re climbing into the Lib Dem camp. But if the remaining debates are similar to the first, how many of those will be 18 to 25 year olds?

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April 09 2010

09:21

Jonathan Rayner: ‘Time to put some balance back into journalism’

The Law Gazette’s Jonathan Rayner attacks newspapers’ lack of balance, in the run-up to the election. Of both national and regional journalists, he asks: “When did reporters stop reporting the news and become political propagandists instead?”

What is the journalist’s job? Is it still finding out and reporting what’s going on, because how else will everyone know? Or is it convincing the readers, because of their proprietors’ commercial or political interests, to vote in a certain way?

Full post at this link…

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April 08 2010

08:15

Media Guardian: Regional news consortia will miss election contract deadline

Attempts to rush through plans for Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) to replace regional news provision by ITV ahead of the general election on 6 May have failed.

The winning bids for the IFNC pilots in Tyne Tees/Border region, Scotland and Wales were announced on 25 March, but contracts for the scheme will not be signed before the election date, a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to the Guardian.

Those involved will now have to hope for a Labour victory on polling day as the Conservative party has said it will scrap the IFNC plans.

Full post at this link…

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March 04 2010

10:31

Questioning Question Time – how can the media engage young voters?

Following on from Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the City University London event on the role of new media in the forthcoming UK election, Elizabeth Davies reviews BBC3’s special Question Time programme for young voters and asks: what can the media, both old and new, do to engage young voters? This post is also featured on her blog.

My name’s Elizabeth, and when this General Election eventually rolls around, I will be a first-time voter. I’m able to say this as if I’m a member of a support group because, quite frankly, I am. The Electoral Commission warned on Wednesday that more than half of 17-25-year-olds are not on the electoral register, paving the way for us to be considered a demographic desperately in need of some political prodding.

Of course, one way to do this is through sensible use of the media. Young voters need to be persuaded to shake off their political torpor, let alone demonstrate some enthusiasm, in a way that neither patronises nor pigeonholes them. As a journalist and young voter myself, I was intrigued to see how BBC3’s First Time Voters’ Question Time aired last night would tackle the issue.

The first depressing sign of what was to follow was the fact that the programme aired at the same time as the England vs Egypt match on ITV1. It doesn’t take a political genius to figure out that such a programming conflict means you’re probably preaching to the converted. A quick glance at the audience confirmed that. The vast majority, if not all, will probably turn up at their polling stations the minute they open.

The three parties selected their youngest and most telegenic representatives – which they considered in this case to be David Lammy, Jeremy Hunt and Julia Goldsworthy – while BBC3 stuck them on a panel with three others who they thought might be able to engage with the “youth”: Rory Bremner, Tim-from-the-first-series-of-the-Apprentice and… Jamelia. I wasn’t the only Twitter user who wondered if she’d wandered on to the wrong programme.

Over the course of an hour the audience managed to whine about politicians’ failure to talk about important policies and then illustrate, with the help of BBC3’s question selector, that what they cared about politically was failing to land a high-paying job the minute they graduated, celebrities, and indie music. Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Occasionally panellists and audience members did edge towards something resembling real political debate. But, as a rule, this special version of Question Time managed to both patronise and pigeonhole those of us who grew up under New Labour. That’s some feat.

Perhaps you have to give BBC3 points for trying – but those points don’t really count for very much when they’re unlikely to spur even one of those young people into making sure they’re registered to vote. As an attempt, it was pretty feeble. Nick Robinson may consider social media “self-important and narcissistic tosh”, but as we all know, 17-25 years are narcissistic and self-important. Yes, we got a Twitter account whose name was occasionally flashed up on screen, but what about a hashtag so we could debate these issues? What about the Twitter names of the panellists so the conversation could be taken wider than the studio? What about some kind of attempt to engage with Facebook given that we are, supposedly, the “Facebook generation”? What about – God forbid – an actual webpage for the programme where specific information about party policies can be posted and discussed?

Time and time again Barack Obama was held up as a shining example of a politician who got the youth excited because he talked about the issues and also let his true personality shine through in a way untainted by spin or the media. This demonstrated successfully that it isn’t only young people, but the programme’s panellists, who fail to read the news properly. Gordon Brown and David Cameron will take to the podium for the much-vaunted leaders’ debates schooled in the finest of the Obama arts, from those who know them best – Obama’s own advisers.

In the end, it may be up to those leaders’ debates and the media discussion around them to push voters of all ages towards showing an interest in the political future of their country. Yes, I do worry about the “Americanisation” of British politics the leaders’ debates and the subsequent exertions of party spin machines could create. But it may take that kind of wall-to-wall exposure to grab people’s attentions. In the final five minutes of the show, one of the audience members made the only sensible comment of the entire hour: you can complain all you want about politicians failing to lay out their policies, but young people need to show some initiative and actually go out to look for them. Journalists have a responsibility to be the vessel for that search, and to make it far more than a token gesture.

Young voters should not march themselves down to a polling station purely for the sake of it. But if the media considers carefully how it can grab their attention in an adult and informed manner, then it will do them, and the country, a huge service. And, you never know – it might just win itself a vital generation of new followers at the same time.

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