My election verdict is that most media must do better

Although it has been a pretty dire election campaign, there have been some clear winners and losers in the media.

Although it has been a pretty dire election campaign, there have

been some clear winners and losers in the media.

Three national newspapers have had good elections, because of the sheer

quality of their journalism. The Guar-dian influenced its course with

its dedicated campaign against Parliamentary sleaze. Without it Martin

Bell would never have stood against Neil Hamilton.

The Daily Mail also decisively altered the agenda when it tenaciously

tracked down the election addresses of Tory candidates to check their

views on Europe, and forced the splits in the party into the open. The

move was open to any newspaper. It could have been deployed against

Labour too. I’ve also appreciated the excellent team of political

writers at the FT, who write with clarity and knowledge, day after


What about, I hear you say, the antics of those turncoats, the Sun and

the News of the World? Well, it has been fascinating to watch, memorable

for the shock factor, but not great journalism, although Sun political

editor Trevor Kavanagh is now a power in the land. The real significance

has been political. It was Michael Heseltine, remember, who devised the

cartoon of Tony Blair sitting on Helmut Kohl’s knee. That’s the kind of

smear the old Sun would have dished up daily. In contrast, a weakened

Mirror has had a bad election, forced to become a hyped up frantic

Labour luvvie. Sad.

TV and radio, the main source of news for eight in ten people, have

struggled to keep people switched on. There will be big inquests now,

about why audiences turned away, especially from the BBC. There is bound

to be a major overhaul before the next election: by then the BBC will

have its own dedicated TV news channel to run wall-to-wall coverage from


I hope it has been watching Sky News, which had an excellent


Political editor Adam Boulton had the airtime to conduct civilised

studio discussions with politicians and provide instant, live analysis.

I’ve been alienated by the confrontational style of interviewing of

Jeremy Paxman and John Humphreys. The lack of younger presenters and

front line women must be addressed.

The extended Nine O’Clock News has been tedious because of all the

pre-prepared packages. Why doesn’t election coverage draw on fresher TV

techniques with video diaries from floating voters or even politicians?

The least surprising thing is that news organisations have insisted that

their reports include shots of their big names asking questions, even if

it comes at the cost of reducing the politician’s sound bites. It is

their only way of branding their reports.

As Martin Bell’s move demonstrated, top TV journalists are bigger stars

than the BBC or ITN have, till now, been prepared to accept. And at

least they usually make sense.

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