By Rose Rawstron
An ‘Election 2015 and the Media’ event was held at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) this week. The event, organised by MMU’s Journalism Department, served to inform students and the public about how the media represents politics.
Dave Porter, Journalism Lecturer at MMU, said, “This is the first event of its kind the journalism department has organised. There is a great mix of speakers meaning we have a wide range of perspectives, from a former BBC political correspondent who covered the 1974 election, a serving councillor who is up for re-election on May 7th, and a social media correspondent from the Manchester Evening News.”
The guest speakers included David Ottewell, the Head of Data Journalism at Trinity Mirror, Jim Hancock, the former BBC politics correspondent, Chris Paul, a Manchester Labour Councillor and Beth Ashton, a social media journalist/editor for Manchester Evening News.
Jim Hancock, although retiring from a career in journalism, spoke of how he is still very much involved in politics and that it still provokes great passion in him when speaking about it. He now writes his own blog on a website, ‘Down Town in Business,’ and organises conferences. He believes that the media is a huge innovation for democracy and that politics in particular is resorting to a ‘retail politics’ stance. It is all about what those parties can do for you and nothing is mentioned of the bad points. Jim predicted that we may have another five years of indecision ahead of us.
Chris Paul, on the other hand is still active in politics and is the labour councillor for the Withington area of Manchester. His input in the day was very much strategic in that he justified why not to vote for his rival parties and managed to defend the Labour Party from a bashing by Jim. Although, credit where it is due, he took the criticism very well!
Beth Ashton took a completely different standpoint to the other two speakers, in that this is her first election where she will be covering it in the news. She believes that from a journalist’s perspective it is all about speed in the elections. They must be the first to pick up on a story and so have to quickly seek the Twitter trends, tweets from politicians (which she believes are highly monitored), voting figures and any retaliations prior to the revelation of the winner. She also believes – and Jim Hancock agreed – that social media allows for public outrage. It allows people to speak freely about politics and express opinions that they wouldn’t in person.
Humanity Hallows caught up with Dave Porter after the event. He said, “We couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out. There was a lively mix of students, from those on the Masters Journalism course to undergraduate politics students. It has given the tutors a taste for a larger ‘Journalism Day’ we are planning to run later this year with a greater mix of guest speakers and panels on various topics throughout the day.”
Rose is in her second year studying History at Manchester Metropolitan University.