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Politicians and people v MSM

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:30 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

So far, it's been a much better election for the mainstream media - or the "MSM" as they're described by an often contemptuous blogosphere - than you might have expected. The bloggers hoped they would boss this campaign, breaking stories, setting the mood, and leaving the flat-footed old media types trailing in its wake.

But the newspapers, and in particular the broadcasters have proved far more influential, with the TV debates dwarfing every other aspect of the campaign.

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What I have noticed in recent days is the way both politicians and voters have used new-media methods to take on the mainstream media and dispute their version of the truth.

The latest example came yesterday when the Conservative Joanne Cash took great exception to an article about her in the Sunday Times by a journalist called Camilla Long. Now the piece doesn't appear any more hurtful than much other Sunday journalism, but Ms Cash was offended by remarks about members of her team.

Five years ago, she might have contacted the paper and hoped for a right to reply the following week. But instead she went online and started tweeting. A string of messages attacked the journalist's professionalism, her intelligence and her attitude to other women. "I wonder how she sleeps at night" and "she's a journo who never writes a good word about anyone or anything" were typical.

She attracted support too from another Twitter user who considers herself a victim of Camilla Long's prose, the government's digital-inclusion czar Martha Lane Fox, who said: "havent seen her article but thank you :) she was one of the laziest journos have ever met - ignore it. u rock."

I have contacted Camilla Long to seek a comment, but have not heard back yet.

Another politician who hit back yesterday against the mainstream media was Labour's Tom Watson, a former minister and close confidant of the prime minister. He felt that a story in the Sunday Telegraph saying he'd been excluded from Labour's election campaign was inaccurate. So he responded with a post on his blog - among the most read of any politicians' online offerings - explaining why he is campaigning locally and not at party HQ. Far more people will have read the original story - but the many journalists who follow Mr Watson's blog and Twitter feed will have seen his rebuttal very swiftly.

Then there's the wider revolt against mainstream media coverage of Nick Clegg. This started before the Clegg surge began, with sporadic complaints from Lib Dems about the lack of coverage for their party. Then, when the papers started running negative stories last week, it blossomed into an online revolution. Mr Clegg himself has said that the satirical #nickcleggsfault craze that swept through Twitter last week mocking the papers was one of his favourite moments of the campaign so far. And there's a strong anti-mainstream-media slant among the 150,000 members of the Facebook group called We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!, with fan posters declaring "Rage Against The Media".

Make no mistake - the politicians would rather have the mainstream press on their side than against them. But this time around, both they and the voters are finding ways of hitting back.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    There are two pictures in this post... who are they?? It doesn't say anywhere.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think the best all-round example of MSM vs the internet that I've seen so far was Christina Odone's Telegraph pieces about Evan Harris. She did the same thing she's always done, spinning a mixture of exaggerations, distortions and outright lies, and chucking in a few gratuitous personal insults, and got completely taken to bits in her blog comments.

    Rather than engaging in any sort of debate, or even retracting what she'd said, she went on to post the most paranoid follow-up possible, claiming that she was being oppressed by a coordinated (and 'spooky'!) conspiracy.

    Aside from the substance (such as it was) of the spat, the most striking thing was the sheer inability to grasp that you can't just say stuff online without people calling you on it if it's rubbish, coupled with a palpable sense of shock that anyone would even dare question the word of a 'proper journalist'. It's a car crash, but it's well worth a few minutes rubber-necking:

  • Comment number 5.

    You say that the blogosphere is contemptuous but many people fell that it is the MSM that is contemptuous particularly in how they regard Scotland, Wales & N Ireland when they report on this election as being irrelevant. Not speaking for other bloggers, but all I want is fairness, parity & impartiality particularly from organization such as the BBC that as they are publicly funded should be made accountable to follow its own charter.

  • Comment number 6.

    In pursuit of facts, and context, I stumbled across this:

    Now, who to believe, and whose opinion to be seduced by?


  • Comment number 7.

    With very few honourable exceptions - we no longer have newspapers in this country - but daily entertainment. The print media are dominated by neo-con proprietors and their editors who will stoop to anything in support of their personal peccidillos and circulation - including making things up if the truth does not support their agenda.

    Fortunately, the new media provide ways for those smeared by the "news" papers to respond - and a good thing too.

  • Comment number 8.

    Of course, it might be politicians all on their own vs. other folk...

    @BBCLauraK - John Cowan, candidate for South East Cambridge, suspended for offensive remarks he made online-too late for lab to select a new candidate

    Good to see the BBBC, which often may be viewed as part of the MSM too, playing is part in this case.

  • Comment number 9.

    The sky debate was quite sickening really. On top of the obviously against the rules attack on nick clegg by the host several in the media have noticed that the camera shots were manipulated to be more favourable to DC also (only DC had zoom ins while he was speaking for example).

    Worse than the the u-gov instant poll which quoted DC as winning was conducted before the debate ended while NC was still making his final speech (see Newsnights political editor Michael Crick's blog who was the only one to report this).

    I had a bet on nick clegg winning the debate, the bookmakers paid me out on the basis that in the majority of polls (except the U-gov poll) he won.

    Yet if you read the media you would think that david cameron actually won when IN FACT he did not.

    Even the BBC refused to call the result, like many preferring the cop out ''too close to call'' etc, presumably the factually correct headline 'clegg wins again' was banned by mutual consent via the networks that exist between senior incumbent main party politicians and the media of all kinds (including the BBC).

    If the BBC can not maintain its media impartiality who can?

  • Comment number 10.

    So far, it's been a much better election for the mainstream media - or the "MSM" as they're described by an often contemptuous blogosphere - than you might have expected.

    No, not what I expected, but what you and your cronies like Paul Wakely have bleathered on about.

  • Comment number 11.

    Are the blogs by Nick Robinson, Brian Taylor, Robert Peston and the like part of the blogosphere or the main stream media?

    It doesn't matter really, the method of delivery is far less important to me than the quality of the information provided.

  • Comment number 12.

    As a prediction I wonder what the MSM are waiting to publish on Labour and Liberal Democrats on the eve of the election. The attack on Clegg was very worrying as it was obvious there was a coordinated spurious attack designed to hit on the eve of the debate to unnerve Clegg. There is something deeply concerning when a politically motivated elite who control part of the press use their control to influence a democratic election. I hope that last weeks attack was recognised by many as a such an attack and will respond by punishing the party to which these organs of the press belong.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm suprised I managed to get to the "u rock" bit, especially after Twitter was mentioned, again. The BBC technology blogs have fallen so far, that I stuggle to see them anymore. I know the election is important, or so I'm told to be believe, and that it is good to cover it, but could we please have a few proper technology posts?! Please?!

    And no, I won't comment on anymore of the article, as it seems like utter drivvle.

  • Comment number 14.

    For those of us out in the sticks with no broadband, it has been a blissfully quiet election campaign. With the hit and run of dial-up, we can't afford to listen to the background drone of either the bogoffsphere or MSM. This is one siver surfer whose vote is still up for grabs and no amount of new tech has reached me yet. It's not selling itself very well if all folk do is slag each other off over personal minutiae.
    And as for those cheeky blighters who suggest generation change will remove me from the scene, I don't intend poppin' me clogs yet for your convenience, sonnies. The Westminster Village People are still writing for each other to read, not the population at large.
    My Golden Girls gathered around my laptop agree with me. And we all have votes...

  • Comment number 15.

    Social media with facebook and the likes of twitter certainly make for more engaging interaction with the public than MSM as you term it which is very one-way.

    There is a continual rant against the BBC and other traditional channels about bias for or against various parties. I feel it's largely unwarranted though - if anyone bothers to read the comments in these blogs it appears there is roughly an equal distribution of pro-bias and anti-bias against every party imaginable.. pretty fair I'd say if anything. Think you should track that as part of your sentiment analysis Rory!


  • Comment number 16.

    There is something deeply concerning when a politically motivated elite who control part of the press use their control to influence a democratic election.


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