Reporting politics isn’t about when things go bang, but why they go bang in the first place, according to a veteran BBC presenter.
Mark Mardell was speaking at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism Week this morning (Tuesday), and has been at the forefront of reporting and analysing major world events for both radio and television for more than 25 years.
He told students that the main focus when reporting politics is the context and background of a situation and where it fits in a wider story. He said: “I’m not interested in when things go bang, but why they go bang in the first place.”
He added that he always wanted to cover “interesting” politics like the Chinese Revolution and the rise and fall of facism. In fact he ended up covering exactly what he thought was “boring” politics: American, British and European.
However, his reporting in America had been very interesting after all. One of the issues of American media, he says, is that there is a lot of opinion, and it colours the way politics is reported.
“Compared to America none of the elections here are nasty. For one thing American politicians can tell outright lies about each other rather than just hinting at something which may not be true, like British politicians.”
As for the upcoming UK election, he said: “The national picture will be how to manage the economy and who will lead the country: and that’s how it should be. Issues like immigration will play a smaller part.”
Mark speculated that media coverage of politics could be partly to blame for politicians all seeming to be ‘the same.’
“People who show personality or honest opinion are often seen as making a gaffe, but that’s not necessarily true.
“That is why politicians like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who seem more “real” are quite appealing to the public. They are different.”
Mark’s parting shot to students was to stress objectivity in political reporting. “That’s not just true of reporting British politics either. I may think a lot of what Putin says is rubbish but it is still important to give a shout out to people like him.”
“You can be challenging but don’t be biased.”
I first got hooked on journalism while interning at The Yorkshire Times, and went on to become the Lifestyle Editor of Newcastle University’s student newspaper The Courier. I have since worked for Champion Up North magazine, and am now studying for my PGDip at Leeds Trinity University. I religiously read The Debrief, VICE, Marie Claire and The Guardian, and drink an unhealthy amount of tea.