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British politics:
The Changing Role of Journalism
GV311 Feb 2015
Prof Charlie Beckett
Director, Polis
Dept of Media & Comm...
• What is the structural role of journalism in UK
politics and how well does it perform?
• How is political journalism cha...
How did this….
…lead to this?
It was mainly this
Plus a lot of this
Though it wouldn’t work without this
Unique or a precedent?
• Rochester by-election – damage limitation
• Over-reaction by over-sensitive leader
• Inevitable c...
What does journalism do for politics?
• Information
[facts, records, statistics, events,
policies]
• Deliberation
[debate,...
History of news: a battle between
press & power
History of news: a battle between
press & power
• Inns of court: state PR
• Holborn printers – licensed press
• Covent Gar...
The problem with
political journalism is..?
The (politician’s) problem with
political journalism is..?
• Unaccountable power
• Bias
• Obsession with process
• Cynicis...
The (journalist’s) problem with
political journalism is..?
• Lack of resources for (political) journalism
• Government sec...
The (public’s) problem with
political journalism is..?
• Too complicated
• Too cynical
• Too belligerent, biased
• Too muc...
Press power?
PR power?
Triumph of spin?
LoL
Leveson’s verdict
• Politicians “developed too close a relationship
with the Press in a way which has not been in
the publ...
Networked Journalism
non-political political fora
• General Election TV Debate
Structural change:
Mixed media – but all networked
• Traditional
‘legacy’media
• Social news
media
• Social networks
Politicians
News
Media
Public
Political reporting is now networked
Media
Politicians
Citizens
Redefine ‘Journalist’
• Curator
• Partner
• Social networker
• Specialist
Redefine ‘News’
• (Open) Data
• Transient ‘liquid’ reality
• Relationship not authority
• Contested not objective
What difference does it make?
• Influence – who has it?
• Proportionality – a fair voice?
• Verification – what’s true?
• ...
Filter bubbles?
Filter bubbles?
Distraction?
• 1968 average TV
soundbite 43”
• 1988 average TV
soundbite 9”
• 1892 average
newspaper quote 1.7
column inch...
Distraction?
A challenge to politicians
Challenge to journalists
Real problem is engagement, attention
& authenticity
How to get people’s attention
@CharlieBeckett
Prof Charlie Beckett
Director, Polis
Dept of Media & Communication
How political journalism is changing UK politics
How political journalism is changing UK politics
How political journalism is changing UK politics
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How political journalism is changing UK politics

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This is a lecture for the LSE Government Department on how political journalism is changing in the UK and how that might impact on democracy.

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How political journalism is changing UK politics

  1. 1. British politics: The Changing Role of Journalism GV311 Feb 2015 Prof Charlie Beckett Director, Polis Dept of Media & Communication
  2. 2. • What is the structural role of journalism in UK politics and how well does it perform? • How is political journalism changing? • What impact might that have on democracy?
  3. 3. How did this….
  4. 4. …lead to this?
  5. 5. It was mainly this
  6. 6. Plus a lot of this
  7. 7. Though it wouldn’t work without this
  8. 8. Unique or a precedent? • Rochester by-election – damage limitation • Over-reaction by over-sensitive leader • Inevitable consequence of febrile networked political media (and polling day media vacuum) • Toxic combination of anti-Labour blogger (who works for) and anti-Labour newspaper • Genuine problem with core vote perception of aloof politicians and out of touch Labour elite
  9. 9. What does journalism do for politics? • Information [facts, records, statistics, events, policies] • Deliberation [debate, analysis, comment, opinion] • Accountability [investigation, audit, voice for citizen, campaigns]
  10. 10. History of news: a battle between press & power
  11. 11. History of news: a battle between press & power • Inns of court: state PR • Holborn printers – licensed press • Covent Garden coffee houses – paid hacks • Reporting parliament – a controlled Lobby • Broadcasting – public and commercial – all regulated • Internet & social media – call for controls
  12. 12. The problem with political journalism is..?
  13. 13. The (politician’s) problem with political journalism is..? • Unaccountable power • Bias • Obsession with process • Cynicism • Lack of information • Lack of expertise • Loss of local press
  14. 14. The (journalist’s) problem with political journalism is..? • Lack of resources for (political) journalism • Government secrecy • Government and party spin and manipulation • Disintermediation: increased role of social networks & public relations
  15. 15. The (public’s) problem with political journalism is..? • Too complicated • Too cynical • Too belligerent, biased • Too much process • Boring • Irrelevant – ‘Westminster bubble’ • Too simplistic • Not critical enough • Too complicit – not critical or radical enough • Sensationalist • Not informed enough about realities of policy-making
  16. 16. Press power?
  17. 17. PR power?
  18. 18. Triumph of spin?
  19. 19. LoL
  20. 20. Leveson’s verdict • Politicians “developed too close a relationship with the Press in a way which has not been in the public interest’ • Regular political journalism was "in robust good health and performing the vital public interest functions in a vigorous democracy,"
  21. 21. Networked Journalism
  22. 22. non-political political fora
  23. 23. • General Election TV Debate
  24. 24. Structural change: Mixed media – but all networked • Traditional ‘legacy’media • Social news media • Social networks
  25. 25. Politicians News Media Public
  26. 26. Political reporting is now networked Media Politicians Citizens
  27. 27. Redefine ‘Journalist’ • Curator • Partner • Social networker • Specialist
  28. 28. Redefine ‘News’ • (Open) Data • Transient ‘liquid’ reality • Relationship not authority • Contested not objective
  29. 29. What difference does it make? • Influence – who has it? • Proportionality – a fair voice? • Verification – what’s true? • Acceleration – faster, instant, all the time • Destabilisation – surprise, ambush, reveal • Superficiality – attention & distraction • Fragmentation or diversity?
  30. 30. Filter bubbles?
  31. 31. Filter bubbles?
  32. 32. Distraction? • 1968 average TV soundbite 43” • 1988 average TV soundbite 9” • 1892 average newspaper quote 1.7 column inches • 1916 average newspaper quote 1.0 column inch
  33. 33. Distraction?
  34. 34. A challenge to politicians
  35. 35. Challenge to journalists
  36. 36. Real problem is engagement, attention & authenticity
  37. 37. How to get people’s attention
  38. 38. @CharlieBeckett Prof Charlie Beckett Director, Polis Dept of Media & Communication

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