Campaigning in local elections : Outside the political world of the national media

Marlyn Glen

3 April 2012

With the council election campaign now underway, political activists will be working in the real world of voters’ politics.

The issues raised by voters will be the important ones of home, family, income, and provision for old age.

Local media are certainly in touch with the issues in the real world of voters’ politics and so local issues tend to be covered by them with much more attention to local news rather than political personalities

However, this real world of voters’ politics is a world that is distinct from the world of politics as mostly portrayed by the national traditional news media.

Opinion polls published by the media show that people’s priorities are unemployment, financial and job insecurity, education, and health.

However, in  contrast, all too often, the traditional media presents political news to the public as something else -

 - who’s "performed well " in Parliament at Question Time today,

 - political rivalries and jealousies,

- who’s in the lead,

- who’s up, who’s down ,

 - the latest "split" which may just be differences of opinion

supposed "gaffes",

And so, there is a frequent mismatch of what news is important to the public as news and what is important to the media as news.

“ News" is not something that is sacred which  exists above manipulation, existing on its own in the nebulous “out there” .

News involves a choice, saying that one event is more important than another, and it reflects a journalist’s or an editor’s or an owner’s attitudes, beliefs and values.

Political news as presented by much of the national media is more about Parliamentary politics, Westminster-centric and Holyrood-centric, rather than anywhere else, more about the day-to-day tactics and exchanges in Parliament rather than a comprehensive discussion on the important issues that affect people’s lives.

Councils, trade unions and other organisations are seen in the role of responding to a Westminster / Holyrood pronouncement or policy rather than  as organisations that have their own priorities and their own business.

Councils, responsible for billions of pounds of expenditure each year on local services, are perceived to be very much the lesser political institutions than either Holyrood or Westminster.

So when voters go the polls on 3rd. May, the 24/7 news cycle, celebrity politics, the perceived glamour of political power, close proximity to the famous, and political gossip will be far from their minds.

However, analysis of the election results by the national media will continue to focus on their own agenda of priorities in politics.


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