Thursday, 15 April 2010

Meejah studies

I had to do some media interviews today ahead of the BP AGM. That and the Devil's Kitchen implosion made me think about this here media business.

First the interviews. Before I get stuck in hat-tip to Paul for leading me to read one of the three rather good books that posts from others bloggers have pointed me to over the past year or so (the others are this via Chris Dillow, and this via Tim Worstall). Anyway, Bourdieu suggests early on that if you choose (as an interviewee) to engage with TV on its own terms you effectively agree to say nothing, and I have to say this chimes with my own experience. Broadcast media interviews are inevitably short and simplistic and the pressure is always to simplify and shorten, and explain ideas in terms of existing concepts.

I don't mind all this on one level. I am vain enough to quite enjoy interviews. But I do think that Bourdieu was basically right about what is going on. Producers and interviewers inevitably often go back to 'good' interviewees who play by the rules and can provide the simple punchy soundbite, regardless of whether it explains the underlying issues or not. This is not by any means to be critical of individual journalists - there are genuine constraints on what they can do. But the format broadcast media in particular works to inevitably reduces the meaningful content of the interviews.

After the first interview, a 'proper' one, I was buttonholed by one of the environmental campaigners who was outside the AGM. It was just him, me and his camcorder. It was far less structured than the 'professional' media interview. There was no sense of the 'rules' of the types of interviews I usually do, so it was unsettling in a way that I no longer find 'normal' media interviews to be. Unlike a normal broadcast crew, he clear wasn't thinking in terms of his key 10-15 second sentence. Plus the record button was always on in terms of the likely output (unlike traditional broadcast interviews where they want your 'best' answer). He also pushed me on one of my answers.

Somehow, even though it wasn't done by a journalist, the second interview felt more journalistic. It was the first time in ages that I felt I had actually been challenged to defend what I had said, rather than my comments simply being a bit of 'content'. I'm glad there are people out there doing this stuff, and I suspect this will be where a lot of 'real' news comes from in future.

I got back home this afternoon to discover the latest blogosphere scandal - the Devil's Kitchen blog has been taken down following a less than impressive TV turn by its real-life author in his other role as leader of the Libertarian Party UK. As Chris AKA The Devil has acknowledged, he hardly covered himself in glory on the Politics Show, but there are a few things that particularly stand out from it all.

First, I'm amazed he wasn't prepared for this outcome. If you mouth off a lot, you have to expect people to bring your comments up again. If I was him I would have assumed I would have got asked questions about what I had said online and prepared accordingly. He didn't look like he saw it coming at all,

But secondly, I can't believe he crumbled so easily. I mean, wasn't the whole point of DK that he was unconstrained, a foul-mouthed advocate of liberty no matter what? As such I am amazed he didn't simply bat back Brillopad's raising of his blog by saying something like "The whole point of the LPUK is that people have the right to think and say what they want. The problem is that politicians and media intermediaries like you fail to allow the real voice of the people to be expressed. You might find what I blogged offensive, but it's no worse than what millions of people think, or say in clubs and pubs across the UK." That's exactly what I would expect the leader of the LPUK to say. Instead he ended up apologizing (and to a union official...).

So it does make you wonder if all that 'libertarianism' wasn't just a convenient label for someone who is just.... pardon my language... a gobshite. The fact that the leader of a party of libertarians couldn't give a libertarian response to a slightly pushy question must make the massed ranks of the LPUK wonder if his heart's really in it. The DK blog itself has also now been removed after a quiet word from his employer. Liberty's champion needs to pay the mortgage, natch. Does make you wonder if he'll stick at this politics business, and if so whether he'll move more trad Right (UKIP, but maybe ultimately the Tories). Wouldn't be surprised at all.

But, if it's any consolation for DK, this just isn't a big deal. Us bloggers like it cos it's a bit of good gossip in our online world. But it was ultimately 3 or 4 minutes on a TV programme most people don't watch. I'm with Paul in having little sympathy, given his deliberate offensiveness (that just isn't what I like), but it's already dust. Only bloggers care about this one.

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