I spent over four years researching Australian election reporting, culminating in a book I called How Australia Decides (Cambridge Uni Press, 2011). As part of my research I read, watched and listened to thousands of news, current affairs and even light entertainment reports on the 2001, 2004 and 2007 elections. By the time I finished the book, the 2010 election had also been held and I was able to write about some of the changes I’d noticed over a decade of federal elections.
This election, one of the biggest differences I have noticed from earlier elections is the lack of prominence accorded the election in reporting. Just focusing on TV for a moment (because that is still where most voters get their election news from), it seems to me that stories on the election broadcast on TV nightly news programs are later in the bulletin than they used to be. I haven’t got out my stopwatch this campaign (as I did on a big sample of TV news reports for elections in the 2000s) but it seems on first glance that the TV news stories are shorter than they used to be as well. The first debate was certainly accorded less prominence than in the past. Not one of the three free-to-air television stations nor SBS broadcast the event on their main channel, relegating it instead to secondary digital stations.
This could all be related to the unusually long campaign period this election wearing out interest. It could be to do with changes in news values - both by audiences and broadcasters. But it could also be to do with the increasingly difficult economic circumstances of broadcasters (and newspapers for that matter) leading to a focus on more commercially profitable content.
I’d like to explore these - and other - issues in an event to be held by The Melbourne School of Government and the Melbourne Press Club, hosted by Michael Rowland, presenter, ABC News Breakfast on 22 August at the University of Melbourne. I’ll be talking with Michael Gordon, Political Editor, The Age; Kerry-Anne Walsh, author of The Stalking of Julia Gillard and John Ferguson, Victorian Political Editor of The Australian.
If you are in Melbourne on the night, I hope you can make it along to join in the conversation (details below).
Thursday 22 August 2013 7.00-8.00 pm ‘The Spot’ Basement Theatre Faculty of Business & Economics Cnr Berkeley & Pelham Streets, Carlton University of Melbourne
Enquiries: Andrea Carson firstname.lastname@example.org This is a free public event but you must register at: www.mediapuzzle.eventbrite.com