10:50 | 19th February 2019

Blogroll: Political Watch

Blinded by the lights - Cameron foxed by Camera?

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The world of news is a fast one nowadays. With the advent of Twitter and citizen journalism a story can take hold within minutes. It's also heralded a new era where every news outlet is fully multi-media. Tris Reid-Smith, formerly Editor of Pink Paper now overseeing a welter of Millivres titles, has done just that at Gay Times. Now the hard-hitting interviews are also available as video.

The problem with that can be that it takes a different skillset to conduct the interview and a different mindset to answer. Print interviews are the place to really tease the true facts out of an interviewee; you can revisit a question and build-up facts, often without them realizing where you have taken them.

Video interviews, on the other hand tend to be about quick facts and soundbites. There is nowhere for your interviewer to hide, so whilst you can often find them revealing new information, you are much more likely to get a safe and thought out "forms of words" that leave no space for misinterpretation.

David Cameron has been (rightly) criticized for his interview with Gay Times. He hadn't checked his facts before the interview and didn't know whether there was an instruction for Conservative MEPs on which way to vote in relation to Lithuanian anti-gay legislation being examined by the European Parliament.

His train of thought appeared to entirely breakdown and he asked for filming to be terminated so he could think. He explained that he hadn't been told the interview would be filmed, and whilst he does have a point here, this is a question he should of been able to answer.

Later asked, he explained that for "bedrock" equality issues then the Conservatives were clear about demanding which way their MEPs and MPs voted. For "conscience" and "other country's domestic matters" they preferred a free vote. This is a policy many will find reasonable; it just came too late in the interview to count for much.

So did Labour and the Lib Dems capitalize on this Conservative fumble? No, in leaped Ben Bradshaw, Labour Culture Minister happily telling Channel 4 News last night he thought it was "extraordinary" that equality matters were a free vote. Problem is that Labour also has a long-standing free-voting policy; on such issues as whether fertility clinics can refuse IVF treatment to single women and lesbians. Mr Bradshaw has been revealed to be badly briefed, and not a little hypocritical.

Lessons to be learnt? For journalists I think we have to learn that not all interviews are the same, different skills are needed for a video interview, and its only fair to warn your quarry what methods you intend to use to capture their responses.

For minsters it's a lesson in how leaping-in with glee, and a lack of actualité, can quickly convert a 1-0 victory to a 1-1 mutual loss. This election is likely to see battle after battle on some quite geeky data. Politicians should be prepared. I'd usually say "there should be an app for that" and apparently the Conservative Party already have one for their candidates. Are Labour and Lib Dem techies frantically coding too?


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