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Thursday, 3 January 2013

Covering Elections

Covering elections is an example of journalists carrying out a public duty, or public service. Reporting elections help inform people about information on the parties running, their manifestos and other information.

During an election, while these are important for a journalist at any time, it is particularly important to have fairness, impartiality and accuracy, particularly for broadcasts.
Broadcasters have special rules regarding elections and political bias, whilst newspapers can be less balanced.

'Keep an eye on the clock' - this refers to the amount of time each political party gets on screen. For broadcasters, it is important to give each of the major parties equal coverage. You must talk to the major party candidates, and possibly minor party candidates if they could influence the result.
It can also be a good idea to use small parties, particularly when they are visually interesting and add colour to your piece.

The sort of things that can be covered during election time includes -
Constituency profiles, Candidate Interviews/Profiles and Local Constituency issues.
When covering local issues, speaking to one candidate about them is not good, you have to either speak to all of the key candidates or you can't run the story.

Their is a duty to the voters and candidates to be fair/impartial. Politicians can come after you if they feel your report was unfair or unbalanced. Their is both scrutiny and power for journalists at election time. Citizens can base their choices on your reporting, which can make accuracy and impartiality even more vital.

Relevant laws to focus on for election reporting are the Representation of the People Act 1983, which has been amended regarding exit polls.

Their are a particular areas of the law that journalists need to be careful of when reporting elections.
- False statements about candidates
- Maintaining impartiality - broadcast only
- Reporting opinion polls or exit polls
- Keep an accurate log of part coverage - keeping a tally of how often/long the candidates are featured.

It is a criminal offence to publish opinion polls and exit polls before the polls have actually finished. Their should be no exit poll speculation either. Eg - Vox Pops of voters saying why/how they vote can't be shown until after polls have closed.


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