When you’ve got crack-smoking mayors, sexting candidates and middle-finger waving wannabe chancellors, they will understandably grab all the headlines. So that makes it seem like more people are interested in politics but it’s potentially only on a superficial level - how do you harness that interest to get people excited, or at least interested about the dry policies that will probably have a greater effect on their lives?
I am constantly (delightedly) amazed at just how wonderfully wonky our readers/viewers/listeners are when it comes to politics -- they eat up the salacious headlines with a spoon, of course, but you can also get a surprisingly lively response to, say, a story on electoral financing reform. It's all in how you present it, I think.
Any tips on presenting it more successfully?
thats's a constant problem for us all the time - all you can do is trying to pull in the readers with these scandals - at least, they care about the candidates, that's already a good sign.
I guess Robin's reference to 'sexting' candidates means it's my turn...
Again, my rule of thumb: If the reporter seems bored, the reader will likely be bored, too. I think every great political story should, by rights, sound perfectly normal coming after a breathless "OMG you guys, you'll NEVER BELIEVE what happened today!" Yes, even on election financing reform.
Yes, we have absolutely had what some people called a circus atmosphere in our New York City primary for mayor... largely thanks to Anthony Weiner, whose online exploits were a story all their own. HOWEVER, we and our readers legitimately wanted to discuss other issues important to the voters, including stop and frisk by the NYPD, paid sick leave, the function (or lack thereof) of our Board of Elections, and campaign finance. Those things may SOUND dry compared to the selfies, but they resonate in people's lives. They matter.
All it takes is one all candidates' debate/town hall Q&A to realize how very, very deeply people care about potholes.
We had an epic fight about how large servings of soda should be. Epic.
Yeah, I always find myself wishing that Justin Bieber would weigh in on whatever politically geeky issue I'm obsessively covering at the moment.
I love these multicultural policy revelations...
Soda, Autobahn and Bieber - that's how to get page impressions in USA, Germany and Canada then
But that said, those issues are good to work into not only legislative/executive coverage, but into election coverage. You can broaden them out. The soda question becomes a 'nanny state' or 'public health' question...
And the Autobahn question becomes control versus freedom.
We've been having a similar debate up here over the Quebec Values Charter, which quickly turned into a cross-country debate over multiculturalism/religious accommodation.
I'm going to redirect this back to our audience again, with a question from Miles.
And I'll piggyback this question too - with politicians able to communicate directly with the public via Twitter and social media has it become more difficult to separate the personality from the policy?
I'm definitely a big fan of tweeting politicians -- *actual* tweeting politicians, that is, not accounts micromanaged by staffers and stripped of all personality. It gives reporters a whole new angle when writing about an issue -- and here in Ottawa, it's often the closest we'll come to being able to question a cabinet minister in person. (Media access is... kind of an issue here.)
We have no shortage of tweeting politicians in the U.S.
As for personality vs. policy, I think it just leads to a new genre of stories: the "Politician said X on twitter, and twitter went crazy" short, which is now a staple in political journalizing.
It has changed it very much. People tend to leak things where they wouldn't have called a journalist 20 years ago. The problem for me: backbenchers can become important, just because they're loud on Twitter. Journalists have to bring those comments into context.
I think the level of info coming out from campaigns has changed the game tremendously for a couple of reasons.
Lukas makes a really good point re: previously obscure backbenchers. It's far too easy (and tempting) to turn every utterance by an MP you couldn't pick out of a lineup into front page party-destroying news.
"so and so took to Twitter to say" an absolute staple for journos now
For one, politicians have a million new ways to get information to the public/voters without going through the filter (the fairness filter?) of the press. They can do it fast and they can do it cheap. Secondly, it's just another way to insulate themselves from direct questioning. They can communicate (or try to) without the danger of appearing at a presser and exposing themselves to an aggressive press corps, which we certainly have here in New York. The new fad is to launch your campaign in a video, for example.
And we dont even know who tweeted these things - maybe just an overeager campaigner on the politician's account.
I'm not sure if it really does isolate politicians from questioning -- I think it just broadens the forum from a press conference to the twitterverse at large. And we've definitely got some who are more than willing to engage in a lively debate thereon!
And everything has to be taken with a pinch of salt - now you have to be available to analyse, dissect and react to the tweets in real-time.
It's not that they don't appear in public, but there is no question in my mind that this is all about controlling the environment. When Anthony Weiner launched his campaign for mayor, he did it in a video and he launched it literally in the middle of the night without telling the press. If he'd done it the traditional way, with a big kickoff on the steps of City Hall or similar, it would have been a very different experience (as he later found out when he started doing regular appearances). It's similar to debates (to circle back) where if the candidate doesn't like the question, s/he just answers another one.
To paraphrase Saki, pithy analysis at short notice has become our specialty.
A problem, when you are destroying your "story" of the tweet with an analysis - too many colleagues just blast it out.
Celeste - Absolutely. Our politicians -- or, perhaps more accurately, those who advise them on such matters -- are definitely moving more towards bubble campaigns.
And so social media can give them the illusion of transparency...
But I think it can also pierce that bubble in unexpected ways.
For instance, during the last election, reports of people being ejected from certain leaders' events hit the twitterverse like wildfire. Not sure how much media coverage they would have gotten in the oldverse.