Saturday, July 9, 2011

Politicians v The Media

It's always interesting to get a look behind the persona.

Politicians these days are so relentlessly on message, so dolled up and grinning for the cameras that we often don't feel like we ever really get to know them.

There is a persona that they are trying to portray - and when that image is muddied by a persona cast on them by the other side, we are left with little idea of what they are really like.

I'm always fascinated by what politicians are really about - what their real motivation is for what they are doing, and what they really think about this person or that policy.

I'm especially interested to find out what politicians think about each other, and what they think about the electorate. Do they hold the voters in contempt, or do they have great respect for the people that elect them?

In an article in today's Herald, their State Political Editor Sean Nichols has a very frank interview with O'Farrell, and he opens with something I'm sure O'Farrell would rather he hasn't:

...the Premier apologises for being late but cannot suppress his irritation when told he is to be photographed.

Releasing a sharply delivered expletive, he calls for a jacket, which a minder indicates is on its way.

''I will never understand journalists and the endless photographs,'' he snaps, before perching himself reluctantly on the edge of a chair in one corner of his spartan Parliament House office.

The Picture in question.  From SMH
My personal view is that most politicians have a fair degree of contempt for voters.  The constant valuing of form over substance, the relentless focus on minutia and trivia, as well electoral moods that shift with the winds - it's enough to exhaust anyone.

People often criticise politicians for being gimmicky, for not showing any substance themselves.  I usually point out that they'll stop doing it when it stops working.

I like to think that politicians hate themselves a bit for the way they have to act.  I suppose some will be in it for the fight - they enjoy the argy-bargy of political debate and, lacking any real convictions, simply take the position that is most convenient to them at that point in time and then fight tooth and nail to protect it.

I truly hope that there are other politicians who truly do believe in things - men and women of principle who believe something to be best for the State and give it there all to make it come to fruitition.

When it comes to the media however, it would be hard to blame any politician for having contempt for a journalist.

The media come in, take the politician's carefully crafted press releases and put their own spin on.  They come to press conferences and ask off-point questions - questions about the things they want to write about, not what the politician wants to talk about.

The media feeds the form over substance monster because, after all, they have to sell newspapers. and people like me who really want to get stuck into the nitty gritty can look up Hansard ourselves.

At the end of the day, the media and the politicians have goals that are all but diametrically opposed - but it is also obvious that politicians need the media, and that political journos need politicians.

So one imagines an uneasy truce between to two - each doing their job but trying to, on one level, stay out each other's way.

The highest resolution photo of Nicholls I could find.  From here

I don't know why Nicholls chose to lead with the jacket story.  Maybe it was payback for something.  Maybe it was a warning to O'Farrell about being late, or being rude, or disparaging the 4th estate. Maybe Nicholls wanted to write a little bit about the persona behind the image we see on television.

Or maybe he just thought it was a funny story and would make a snappy opening to his piece.

I suppose media can do things both for noble or ignoble motives too. Just like politicians.

Premiers are busy people.  I wasn't surprised to read Nicholl's comment that O'Farell "looks exhausted" what with being constantly "buffeted between tightly scheduled appointments." I imagine the man is scheduled within an inch of his life.

No doubt he has far better things to do than give an interview to a man who, I have no doubt, has written his share of articles that have put a negative spin on something O'Farrell has said or done.

But politicians need exposure.  No doubt someone from the Premier's team felt that it was important that Nicholls be given the chance to write this piece, to get some attention focussed on what had been accomplished in the government's first 100 days.

I'm sure O'Farrell is abundantly aware that these interviews and these media commitments are as much a part of his job as making important decisions, brawling in question time and leading a government.

Of course, that doesn't mean he has to like it.  And today, that showed.

No comments:

Post a Comment