Wednesday, May 12, 2010...1:00 pm

How the media missed the real UK election story

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YouTube Preview ImageThe main problem for the media during last week’s election was that it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The real story didn’t happen at the count – where all the reporters were eagerly awaiting whatever electoral upset was on the cards – but at the polling stations.

It was there that our democracy got a bit frayed around the edges – producing fractious crowds of disenfranchised voters who couldn’t take part as they were forced to wait beyond the close of polling in long, US-style queues.

It’s a far cry from the usual drafty and sparsely attended village hall. But even though turnout was up a few percentage points from its 2001 low, it was still significantly down on the typical post-War 70-80%. Something had gone seriously wrong with democracy.

But who was there to tell the tale? No one except the people themselves, who harangued the police and the returning officers, and took plenty of mobile video footage to document it.

This then became the basis for the media’s reporting of events. A clear example of how old-style media now relies on front-line user-generated reportage – and proof that it simply can’t hope to be everywhere it’s needed.

Whenever “professional” journalists get sniffy about so-called “citizen journalists”, remind them that they had to get their real election story from YouTube.

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