Analysis

Media Network: Looking forward to a summer of politics and fairy-tale economics

Welcome to the MHP Mischief Media Network bulletin. Our unrivalled team of former journalists and media experts bring you the latest insights behind the headlines.

The biggest challenge is working out if MPs are telling the truth

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail news editor

Claire Ellicott, starts as Acting Deputy Political Editor at the Mail on Sunday tomorrow, here she explains the challenges of covering the Conservative Party leadership election.

What have been the biggest challenges in covering this leadership race?

The biggest challenge is trying to work out whether MPs are actually telling you the truth about who they’re voting for! They’re not known as the most sophisticated electorate in the world for nothing. Allegations of dirty tricks have appeared in all the newspapers because the voting hasn’t followed a consistent pattern. It made it very hard to predict the outcome of the contest because you’re never quite sure if some of those MPs are trying to game the final outcome.

How much interest do you think there will be through the summer?

The contest will dominate over the next six weeks. While most Tory members seem to be supporting Liz Truss, support for Rishi Sunak is slowly growing so it really is all to play for. Summer is usually silly season for newspapers and quiet for the Lobby as MPs are away, but this year we will have a meaty blue-on-blue contest to keep us busy.

What will the major issues be as Rishi and Liz go head-to-head?  

Tax is the major conflict zone between the pair at the moment, as they take opposing views. Whether tax cuts are a fairy-tale that will simply push up inflation and wipe out any gains, or the right thing to do to stimulate growth will become a dividing line for Tory members. This will all, of course, feed into the cost of living which tops the list of concerns for voters in every poll. Net zero, meanwhile, has not featured highly among concerns for the Conservative grassroots, so we’ve heard little about it in this contest.

How much of an impact do newspaper stories and the television debates have on the election?

Newspapers still dictate the news agenda. They’re also the best medium for unearthing details of the lives of the leadership candidates, many of whom the public knew little about before the contest. Pitting candidates against each other in television debates is one of the better ways of deciding between them because communication is a key part of the job. They can be huge game changers, as we’ve seen in past elections.

What kind of stories are the Mail on Sunday looking for?

I will be looking for stories about the rival camps throughout the summer and their responses to the main issues affecting us all. The cost-of-living crisis is only going to get worse, and I will be looking for different ways of writing about that. Stories about the issues that most affect Tory members and what voters will be looking for in their next prime minister will also be top of my list.

Sun readers don’t care about business? Think again

By Alan Tovey, former Daily Telegraph Industry Editor

Ashley Armstrong took over as business editor of The Sun this month. Here she explains why the cost-of-living crisis means her readers care about business news.

What sort of story appeals to The Sun’s business page?

Everything to do with the cost-of-living crisis – businesses that are helping out, ripping off or explaining why shoppers are feeling a bit skint. Sun readers might have lower incomes than The Telegraph’s or Times’s demographics, but they are still aspirational and want a better life. They love an entrepreneurial story, like Victorian Plumbing or Gymshark, someone who has made millions through hard work or luck.

How does the Sun feel about business news?

We’re pro-good business – companies helping their staff and customers and reacting to the issues people face. But as soon as I hear of stories of businesses being hypocritical, ripping people off, or shrinkflation, The Sun will hold you to account. If a tub of margarine is getting smaller but the price is staying the same, we’ll report on it.

What’s the best way to interest The Sun in a business story?

The cost-of-living crisis means normal people care about business news in a way they haven’t since the 2008 financial crisis. People want to know why their wages don’t go so far, and what they can do about it. We want to help them understand. Don’t think Sun readers don’t care – they do.

Pictures matter. I’m playing around with the layout so the page looks different every day but what we always need is a really strong image. That will boost your chances of getting a place on my page.

Finally, don’t write in puns. We’ve got the best subs in the business. They will do that.

Why should businesses bother with The Sun?

The Sun is often overlooked by business. It should be required reading. At my old job [as Times retail editor] we were read by the bosses, the establishment, but now I’m writing for the workforce and customers. That means I’m looking for stories that hit the big employers with big customer bases: retail, telecoms, energy consumer businesses.

What has surprised about the job?

The share prices are sacrosanct. I was surprised. Every Sun business editor has tried to get rid of them but we just can’t. Maybe they are a barometer for the wider state of the economy. I had a reader email asking why I moved them. The fact that the reader had email meant they could get prices faster, but they still emailed. It shows how important they are.

A great picture gives you twice the chance of landing the story.

By James Rollinson

As Head of Business and Consumer at the Daily Mirror, Graham Hiscott has perfected the art of telling business news through a consumer lens, ensuring it appeals to the paper’s slightly older, left-leaning readership.

With almost 15 years of experience, Graham knows what makes a great story for the Mirror. He spoke exclusively to at a brunch event at 180 The Strand. His top tips included:

  1. Papers need a mix of light and shade. If there is a lot of heavy news around, such as the Tory leadership race, consider what light content you can offer to balance it out
  2. The best stories are human stories. They need to be relevant and relevant and relatable to the Mirror’s audience, which means either great case studies or interviews with business leaders from humble beginnings
  3. Graham’s weekly column is a great opportunity for coverage. Many aren’t aware that Graham writes a column on a Monday, which he described as an ‘open goal’ for PRs. Commentary from senior executives makes for great content, and is more likely to be used than a lengthy op-ed.
  4. Green stories need to be achievable. The Mirror is supportive of sustainability stories but its readers are unlikely to be buying new EVs or installing expensive solar panels, if there is something that can help them go greener at little cost or convenience, it could be a winner.
  5. Pictures can make or break a business story. If a story comes with great images, you will have two people pushing for it in an editorial meeting (Graham and the picture editor), so it will always have a much better chance of making the final cut.

BBC Business want to hear from CEOs – and you get bang for your buck

by former ITN presenter and reporter Charlotte Grant

There’s been big changes in the BBC Business team, with much of their coverage now coming out of Salford. Sara Wadeson, Planning Editor for BBC Business, told MHP Mischief that the team now looks after Business coverage on BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and Radio 4’s Today programme and the World Service business programmes.

She says they want access to big chief executives and that a single interview can have a big impact: “If they can make time for interviews, we can run it across our programmes and really make the most of it”

Sara explains that they would record a long interview for Wake Up To Money, run a shorter version on Today and same for World Business Report and Business Matters. This is a huge global audience, and research shows they really like longer interviews, not just a quick back and forth.

BBC the key to Tory leadership race

By ex-News of the World political editor Ian Kirby

In any political campaign there is the ‘air war’ (speaking to media) and the ‘ground war’ (knocking on doors). The Tory leadership campaign has followed the standard course, with candidates giving exclusive interviews to their favoured newspapers and leaking titbits about their rivals to Lobby journalists.

Why else would Liz Truss target adverts on the political gossip site Guido Fawkes, or Penny Mordaunt tell Spectator TV she wanted a new UK theme tune? Coverage by Politico or ConservativeHome are apparently essential.

But the broadcasters are worried, especially those outside the BBC.

Liz Truss only gave her first interview once she made the final two … on the BBC Today programme.

One rival political broadcaster ruefully told me: ‘We’ll only get them to appear after they have done the BBC, and that includes their regional slots.’

And finally….

by Abigail Smith

The Daily Mirror isn’t the only paper looking to balance the light with the shade. A contact of ours on the Evening Standard digital team told us that their data shows that positive, lighted hearted stories consistently perform better on a Friday as people wind down for the weekend.

This echoes what Anthony France, crime correspondent and duty news editor, told us: ‘Feelgood stories are a must have for the weekend. After a week of consuming heavy news, punters want something they can bring up in the pub that night that will get a chuckle from their mates’.