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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Well, I think you have to decide here what you’re going to do in order to get the public interest. If you think that on the whole it’s a good thing that people have some idea about how their society is being governed, you then have to think about, well, what’s the way in which to attract their interest. Now you could say well, look, this is what it’s really about. It’s really about these difficult policy issues. It’s about what these parties say. It’s about these long term structural forces in our society. And we will write long and learned pieces in our newspapers and have long documentaries on television and radio, showing them that there’s a place for that.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds But the truth is actually if we want politics to reach the public, but given the degree to which, both in terms of newspapers and in terms of broadcasting, we’re in a very competitive environment, I would take the view look, actually it may be true that The Sun newspaper primarily consists of entertainment stuff, what’s going on for personalities, or whatever. But if that is what attracts the reader, but then along the way they look at page two of The Sun, maybe only glancing, and as a result, they read a little bit about politics, OK.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Or now equally, they may spend most of their time listening to Radio One or Radio Two, but as a result of that, well maybe, for example, listen to Jeremy Vine doing the odd news interview. They certainly will hear the news headlines. They will hear Radio One’s Newsbeat. In other words, providing people with an environment where, as it were, politics comes to them in the form that they might actually listen to, come across, strikes me as perfectly reasonable. And I think the truth is that’s now become so much more of a chance.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds I mean, the truth is that, I mean, the tabloid newspaper industry, the industry upon which in a sense we’ve historically relied very heavily as a way of getting a point across to people, it’s a dying industry. It’s lost dramatically in terms of circulation. It’s finding it more and more difficult, newspapers in general, to actually reach that section of the population that really isn’t terribly interested in politics. Given that backdrop, given again, multichannel environment, actually I think it’s no good holding your nose up and say, we have to shove it down people’s throats. The truth is we have to sugar the pill, because unless the pill is sugared, it may not be taken at all.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds First of all, I think the journalist needs to know to whom they are writing, or to whom they are making the news story. So I think they have to have some kind of– they have to have some kind of information of the everyday life of the people to whom they are writing. So to make it interesting for them. Why does this particular election, this particular new law, what it has to do with me as a reader. I think that is important. Of course, they has– if you are a writing journalist, you have to be an excellent writer. You have to write it. There has to be some kind of excitement, interest.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds But I do still think that there has to be the facts needs to be right. It needs to be include very good argumentation, and maybe not to be too afraid of asking very different opinions and making the kind of mixture so that people can then talk about it in their news, in their coffee tables, and share their news, their opinions around it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 54 seconds There can be too much, and in the sense that certainly the emphasis on who’s up and who’s down can perhaps be at the expense of consideration of what actually are the policy disagreements about them, and what is the issue here. That said, however, I think one needs to remember something about human nature, all right. Think about your own social life. Let’s imagine two of your friends are having an argument. Or maybe you’re following the career of two people whom you knew at school or at university. And maybe one’s doing rather better than the other.

Skip to 4 minutes and 31 seconds Now, do you have a discussion that says you know what, the fundamental reason why X and Y are having a row is because of this issue. Or the reason why this person is doing so much, the news doing so much person as that person is because the company they’re in is just doing so much better. Probably not. I would suggest to you you say, gosh. You know, blimey. Those two had a right row last night, you know. Want are we going to do about it? You know, are they going to fall out? How can we reconcile them? Well you know, of course I always knew that Jamie was going to do brilliantly but once he left university.

Skip to 5 minutes and 7 seconds You know, he just had the gift of the gab. You know, Sarah in contrast, earnest, hardworking, but never really promotes herself. In other words, we talk about personalities. And I think the truth is that we therefore shouldn’t be surprised that we look at the careers of politicians around personalities as much as we do in our everyday lives. That’s not necessarily right. But the truth is that tends to be the way we’re wired as human beings. We’re interested in each other as individuals. We could still talk more about our personalisation. Because there’s so much talk about personalisation of politics. And I think sometimes we also researchers tend to forget that it’s still a hypothesis.

Skip to 5 minutes and 53 seconds And there are lots of differences between countries how personalised politics is and how deeply and what aspects of personalisation of politics are actually valid in each country’s cases. There’s a quite interesting study concerning different parliamentary democracies in Europe. And for me as a Finn, it was, of course, very interesting that Finland was among the countries in which politics has become greatly more personalised than before, not only because party leaders are leading the electoral campaigns more than before, so it’s more focused around the party leaders’ personalities, but also that the power position of Prime Minister in Finland has grown. Because our political system has changed. So that’s one part, big part of that.

Skip to 6 minutes and 44 seconds Furthermore, what is very interesting is how do the voters, people who read the media, how do they evaluate leaders when they decide which parties they want to support, which parties they choose to vote in the elections. And Finland, growingly, the voters have been, when they’ve been explaining for the researchers why they choose certain political parties, they have been saying that the leaders have been important in this sense. And going back to the populist leadership I talked earlier about, I do think especially in the case of the big rise of this populist party that we had, I do think the evaluations concerning the party leader and his persona were very important indeed in when people were deciding which party to vote.

Making politics accessible

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Has politics become more concerned with personalities?

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Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde