Now that the dust has settled on the Labour leadership plot that never was there is time to reflect on the way this ‘micro plot’ affected the news media. There has been much written recently about how blogs and Twitter will affect the General Election campaign. What is already clear, however, is that TV news reporters are already changing their style in order not to be outdone by the less-constrained blogosphere.
BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson found himself on the wrong side of the story after his repeated denials that anything was afoot soon turned out to be false. Whether this affected his subsequent performance on the 10 O’Clock News is open to debate but his decision to name the so-called ‘six Cabinet ministers who may have been thinking of resigning’ struck some as a last-ditch attempt to get back on top of the story.
It struck me as a pretty desperate thing to do, particularly when Robinson said that the people named he had actually managed to speak to had flatly denied the story. He also went on to admit that he had not been able to speak to them all before naming them as potential plotters live on air. Subsequently all of the six flatly denied the rumour.
Whatever the position of Harman, Miliband et al it surely marks a change in BBC policy when damaging rumours spread by self-interested parties to boost their own cause (in this case the failed plotters) are repeated on air despite flat denials by the protagonists.
If them’s the new rules, does it mean that every rumour is now reportable breathlessly from Downing Street, no matter how flimsy the evidence? If so, the online world may need to stop navel gazing about its own influence as it will already have won the battle through the ‘blogification’ of the mainstream media.