Has something gone wrong with political reporting in the UK?

by Stephen Tall on June 8, 2010

That’s the question asked today by Lib Dem blogger Andy Hinton in an article titled, If you want to keep something secret…

Andy highlights the mangled reporting of the BBC in claiming that Nick Clegg is back-tracking on the coalition government’s commitment to fixed-term parliaments by fleshing out further details on the proposed 55% dissolution rule – as he points out, Nick was simply repeating what the Lib Dems’ deputy leader of the house David Heath had said a fortnight ago in the House of Commons. This chimes with the general media reporting standard that unless something is said live on air it hasn’t actually been publicly stated.

This example of the media’s failure to report leads Andy to argue:

Sadly, this is the modus operandi of all coverage of political debate these days. “Scrutiny” seems to amount to the general principle that parties should be subjected to a general sort of “stress test” of having a set of stock criticisms flung at them. If they come out the other side still standing, they have been successfully “scrutinised”. If not, they have been found wanting.

And he concludes:

Ultimately, we end up with an impoverished national conversation, because the media no longer bother to actually pay attention to what is going on and ask questions of their own. They are so used to being spoon-fed it all by the media operatives of the political parties or by leaks from MPs manoeuvring within their parties, it seems to completely pass them by when something is just said, openly, on the floor of the house. We in the Lib Dems have seen this before, incidentally, in coverage of party conference which seems to owe more to the briefings being given to journalists than to actual reporting of the proceedings of the conference.

I am increasingly struggling to shake off the sense that something has gone seriously wrong with coverage of politics in the UK.

What do LDV’s readers think of Andy’s lament for the current state of political journalism?