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Trust Me, I’m An Expert: how to spot the work of a political spin doctor this election season

How to spot the work of a political spin doctor this election season The Conversation, CC BY77.6 MB (download)

It’s February, the holidays seem like a distant memory and here we are barrelling toward a federal election, which the government has indicated will be in May.

Remember in the olden days – as in, a few elections ago – we used to have a fairly set election campaign period of usually about six weeks? Now, of course, politicians seem to always be in campaign mode.

They’re not doing that all by themselves, of course. There’s a small army of spin doctors, social media strategists, political campaign advisers and press secretaries behind the scenes, finessing every utterance so it fits with the overall campaign strategy. And that’s what we are talking about on the podcast today – the art of political spin.

Read more: It's reputation that matters when spin doctors go back to the newsroom

We’ll hear from Caroline Fisher, political communication and journalism researcher from the University of Canberra. She began her career as a journalist with the ABC, but went on to work as a media adviser for Labor’s Anna Bligh, a former Queensland premier.

Today, she’s talking to Michelle Grattan, political journalist and Professorial Fellow at the University of Canberra about the tips and tricks spin doctors use to shape the political messages you’re hearing every day. And you can read Caroline Fisher’s article on the spin tactics over here.

Read more: The vomit principle, the dead bat, the freeze: how political spin doctors' tactics aim to shape the news

All year round and especially during election season, you’re going to hear a lot of competing claims about the state of the economy. Has school funding been cut or is it at a record high? Do tax cuts make the economy better or worse? Why are the government and the opposition saying seemingly contradictory things about debt and deficits?

To find out, Lucinda Beaman – who was our FactCheck editor but has just moved to the ABC – spoke to Fabrizio Carmignagni, a professor of economics at the Griffith Business School, Griffith University.

He’s authored many FactCheck articles for The Conversation, where he tests statements by key public figures against the evidence and his special super power is pulling back the curtain to reveal why certain claims you hear about the economy don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Today, Professor Carmignani reveals why you should be suspicious when you hear a politician claim their government has created jobs, how to spot a bit of causation vs correlation spin doctoring, and other political porkies that make economists’ skin crawl.

Read more: FactCheck: have the Trump tax cuts led to lower unemployment and higher wages?

Trust Me, I’m An Expert is a podcast where we ask academics to surprise, delight and inform us with their research. You can download previous episodes here. And please, do check out other podcasts from The Conversation - you can find them all over here.

The segments in today’s podcast were recorded and edited by Sunanda Creagh, with additional recording and editing by Dilpreet Kaur and Eliza Berlage.

Read more: Pencils ready: it's time for Politics 2019 Bingo!

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Additional audio

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks

Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, RN Breakfast

Channel 9 news report.

Bill Shorten’s 2018 Budget reply speech.

Sky News report.

Today Show segment.

ABC news report.

Labor Facebook video.

Nick Xenophon SA Best ad.

The Greens ad.

Podington Bear, Pshaw, from Free Music Archive.

Bloomberg news report.


AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

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