Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Transparency, politicians and newspapers

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has seen his chances of facing President Obama next year hit after this video of him talking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board went viral:
Just watch the first minute and you'll get the drift even if he didn't

There are a number of points which come out of this embarrassing performance. The first is that Mr Cain has clearly been coached to within an inch of his life by his team of consultants, so much so he is struggling to remember his pre-prepared answers. Not good and his team need to recognise their part in this poor performance.

More interestingly, for media watchers, is the process US politicians have to go through to secure the support of the big regional newspapers, these hold huge power in the key swing and primary states. Herman Cain is sat in front of an Editorial Board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which will be made up of their key editors. In short, they will know their stuff and this will be a good test. It should be as, once all candidates have been through this process, the paper often endorses a candidate which could be the difference between success or failure.

A similar, but far less formal, process is undertaken in the UK at election time with party leaders touring national and regional papers. Frequently there are off the record and behind the scenes discussions which can secure the backing for one candidate or party.

As the Leveson Inquiry continues people will increasingly look for ways to increase the transparency of the relationships between politicians and journalists. So here is my idea: why not film these meetings in the way they are in the US? Any endorsement has to be based on something and it will be of benefit to voters and the newspaper if the decision making process is utterly transparent.   

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