How do People Want the Media to Cover Politics?
A key concern for many media organisations across the world is how to cover politicians who have a reputation for consistently making false statements. Some worry that repeating false statements – even if they are fact-checked and clearly labelled as such – still gives politicians the attention they crave
As the structure of the media environment has changed in recent years, so has the relationship between politics and journalism. The growth of platforms like social media and video sites means that politicians can now communicate with the public more directly. This allows politicians to largely sidestep media scrutiny – the price they used to have to pay to get their message across – arguably shifting the balance of power, giving politicians the confidence to bend the rules that used to govern their relationship with the media. (Think, for example, of cases where political parties have used social media to spread re-edited versions of video interviews that make their candidate look better or their opponents look worse.)
Of course, much remains the same, but there’s also a sense that the news media are struggling to adapt to this new world, and may not always be as capable of holding politicians to account at a time when they have less control over what eventually reaches the public.
Journalists, politicians, academics, and other observers have offered a range of opinions on what the media should do in response, but the views of news audiences are rarely solicited – something that seems odd given that many news organisations have become increasingly audience focused in recent years. Few would argue that audiences should completely dictate journalistic practice, or the policy of the technology platforms, but what they think still matters – because journalism exists within the context of the audience.
Author Richard Fletcher is Senior Research Fellow, Reuters Institute