January 06, 2006

Charles Kennedy – who sealed his fate?

George Pascoe-Watson, the new Political Editor of the Sun made the point on Sky News today (in a cosy interview/chat with his wife, Kay Burley, incidentally) that it wasn't the media's fault that Charles Kennedy had to leave his job. In his words…

we just report the facts!

But is this strictly true?

For a start, it's the pressure of 24-hour news channels (albeit only two of them now) that means the story has turned around so quickly. In the space of 24 hours, Kennedy has gone from being in the same weak position where he's been for months to one where his position is utterly untenable.

For instance this morning on the Today programme, the leader of the Lib Dems in the European Parliament said Kennedy was a "dead man walking". This led to more calls for him to resign, followed by the confirmation from Vince Cable that he believed he should leave immediately and finally the 'threatened' resignation of one of Kennedy's top team. All of this in under 5 hours!

Also, is the decision of Liberal Democrat MPs to challenge Mr Kennedy not directly as a result of the poor coverage that he has received in the press? Every newspaper today says he should go quietly, and his policies have not broken through the glass ceiling for months now.

What's more, Lib Dems know that the coverage that Kennedy gets is only going to get worse, especially given the very open in-fighting which is now taking place. See Iain Duncan Smith's slow exit of the Conservative party as an example of a political leader being on a one-way street to the backbenches.

So while it is Lib Dem MPs who have forced Kennedy into a position from where he must surely resign (by 6pm tonight, I predict), it is the media which has churned and spat out this story in 24 hours, rather than several weeks.

—-

Incidentally, if Winston Churchill lived in a world of 24-hour instant news, would his alcoholism have been tolerated? I doubt it very much.

—-

And also incidentally, a very good article about 24 hour news and its effects on the 'news cycle' by Mark Lawson in today's Guardian.


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Ad

    Good points there Chris. Rolling news seems to have done more damage to journalistic standards than good. The simple terrible problem of filling 24 hours worth of news (without repetition, hesitation or deviation) when there simply isn't any, has led to great fall-from-grace moments such as N24 hiring a helicopter to follow David Blunketts car across London when he resigned (it was definitely useful to know his driver slowed down in time for the lights); to the awful speculation that comes during every unfolding disaster…In the US it's worse..I saw two emergency landings covered live on CNN, which involved a images from a helicopter trying to find the tiny plane in the night sky..they didn't leave the coverage for over an hour, even though the plane was just flying to use up its fuel, and filled the time with banal interviews with ex pilots, about what the actual pilot could possibly perhaps might be doing at that moment.

    You'd think that with 24 hours to fill, channel editors would be looking for more indepth, original reporting, and we would have seen an increase in more unusual angles on a story but that hasn't happened. I predict a backlash that will return the edited, considered, well rounded daily bulletin to its former glory. Until that is destroyed by broadband TV.

    09 Jan 2006, 12:49

  2. What I don't get is why BBC News 24 – distinctive from Sky News because it relies on packages more than analysis – doesn't utilise more resources from its foreign correspondents. I'd love to know how many reports a week are filed by the Kenya correspondent, for example. Because only one might get shown during 'Reporters' at the weekend, or during the 30 minutes of world news each day. What a waste!

    Why not use the back half of each hour to display some of the more original journalism that the BBC is perfectly capable of producing, rather than follow stories that everyone already knows about anyway. This weekend must have been 75% Kennedy and Sharon, and probably 20% of catching up with other stories that were in the newspapers that morning.

    09 Jan 2006, 12:56

  3. Evan

    I would just like to point out that George Pascoe-Watson and Kay Burley are not husband and wife. They are partners, yes … But they are unmarried.

    31 Dec 2006, 13:01


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